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Tech FAQ

Check also our Technology section for more.

How powerful are GoSol.org’s solar concentrators?

A 4sqM GoSol.org solar concentrator boils 8L of water in 30 minutes. Effectively as powerful as a 2000W electric stovetop burner on red-hot. That said, solar energy depends on where in the world you are, the ambient temperature, how much reflective surface area you’re using and how clear the atmosphere is. Most solar power calculations are based on INcoming SOLar radiATION (insolation) of 1000W/m2. Boiling 8L of water in 30 minutes is a real world example, at 31degN latitude in February with 900W/m2 of isolation.

What makes your solar concentrators different from other solar concentrators?

There are a few differences worth noting: they are built from off the shelf components available in every country on earth, no parabolic bending or computations are needed, they are large & powerful designs, but still human scale flexible. Additionally, they are more scalable since once the core technique is mastered, it is easy to modify designs to suit regional needs.

What can you do with solar concentrators?

Simple answer: anything that requires heat, from cooking an egg to drying apples to smelting metals. (Note: Our current models are not designed to melt metal).

Long answer: You can cook (bake, boil, fry, steam, sear, grill, sauté, roast, stew, deep-fry, etc), you can preserve foods (by making jams, jellies, chutneys, by canning food, by dehydrating and drying produce, by pasteurizing) and you can roast (most commonly nuts and beans like coffee, cocoa and peanuts) and create solar thermal steam pressure which can drive mechanical systems (pumps, factory equipment, ventilation, refrigeration and generators).

We’re already done roasting, water purification, baking, fruit drying, frying and steam production. Some of these applications will be included in the construction guides.

If it’s cloudy, does it still work?

Hold your hand in the sunlight, can you see a sharp shadow? If yes, your solar concentrator will work. If no, then I’m afraid you won’t be using clean, renewable solar thermal energy for the moment! These solar concentrators require clear, direct sunlight to function. It’s not a problem in much of our target market where the sun shines clearly for 300+ days out of the year.

How safe are solar concentrators?

Used correctly, solar concentrators are harmless. The same can be said of gas stoves, open fires and biomass boilers, so what happens when things go wrong and what are the chances? When our solar concentrators are in the ‘off’ position, the mirrors are angled at the ground and so cannot burn anything. When properly aligned and in the ‘on’ position the dangers from the focal point are arguably less than an open gas burner. Depending on the application our designs come with a protective shade that makes sure even accidental focal drifts don’t bother the operator. Further, when using glass mirrors, adhesive backing can be applied so that if a mirror gets broken it doesn’t fall to pieces on the ground.

What skills are required to build a solar concentrator?

You need to be able to cut to length, drill holes, be systematic, apply adhesives and paint. GoSol.org’s solar concentrators are normally built using steel (though with some adaptation can be built out of wood and/or bamboo), so welding is a very useful skill to have, though it isn’t strictly necessary. All the components can be assembled using nuts and bolts, but it’s lot of drilling and bolt flanges, so welding is recommended.

How long does it takes to build one?

4-5 days if you have all the materials on hand and access to tools. This varies based on the tools available and your level of experience.

Can you store the energy to use at night?

The smaller the scale of a solar thermal system, the harder it is to store energy. There are, however, a number of methods to store heat, from creating quicklime to using molten salt heat storage. A simple and well established low tech solution known as “heat retention cooking” involves putting hot food in a well insulated container which can keep it very hot for 6hrs+.

Why do you state your machines are not solar cookers?

Because they are so much more than just solar cookers. GoSol.org tech can also power processing heat for a number of productive industries. Solar cooking is an important function, but GoSol.org solar thermal technology bridges the gap between conventional solar cookers and industrial scale solar thermal.

How much space do I need for the for an oven like the one in Haiti?

It needs a circle about 5 meters (15 feet) in diameter, though it doesn’t occupy all that space at once, that’s over the course of a full day’s rotation to follow the sun.

If I use the construction guides to build a solar cooker, how much does it cost?

The guides will be free. Depending on where you are in the world and what kind of access you have to materials, it will cost between $450 and $750 dollars if you build with metal. With wood and bamboo much cheaper.

Do birds get burned by solar concentrators?

No, not at the scale of solar concentrators that we are promoting. It’s like passing your finger through a candle. If you leave your finger there, you’ll get hurt. However, the focal point for large solar concentrating tower type projects is many meters wide and thus can kill birds when they fly through it. Large CSP plants like Ivanpah have this problem. Our focal point is much smaller and under the cook-top where we’ve never seen a bird rest.

Impact FAQ

Check also our Impact section for more.

What exactly is ‘energy poverty’?

Energy poverty means not being able to afford to keep the lights on (or the candles burning, or the kerosene lamps lit). It means dousing your fire (you cook on an open fire) with water once your food is cooked, and then drying out the charcoal and embers to use later. It means not being able to boil potentially contaminated water. Energy poverty means women and children, instead of working or going to school, spend huge amounts of time scavenging for sticks, twigs, agricultural residue, dung, anything that will burn. Living in energy poverty is a terrible burden, a daily grind that as time passes, becomes harder and harder to escape.

What global impact could your solution have?

We’re faced with several feedback loops that could cause total disaster if left unchecked, a feedback loop of local solar development and innovation has the potential to scale faster than the problems we face and faster than any industrial solution. Though industrial renewable projects, when actually renewable, are good too, they are too capital intensive to scale globally in a short period of time.

How much energy would a billion solar concentrators make?

One billion 2kW solar concentrators would displace an amount of energy equivalent to all biomass burning today, radically reducing deforestation and pollution. One billion multiplied by 2kW is 2,000 gigawatts which is roughly 4 times as much as all the nuclear energy being produced today.

What kind of effect on deforestation can GoSol.org’s solar concentrators have?

Our 4m^2 model can replace as much as 9000kg of wood per year when used 6 hours per day, 300 days per year. In many areas, this can make the difference between the regeneration of the ecosphere or continued deforestation and eventual desertification.

In many towns, around many cities in the developing world, there is an expanding ring of tree-lessness. Each day people have to venture further to collect their fuel. Meanwhile, black carbon emissions fill the sky and darken the arctic snow.

What is Household Air Pollution?

Key facts (via World Health Organization)
-Around 3 billion people cook and heat their homes using open fires and simple stoves burning biomass (wood, animal dung and crop waste) and coal.
-Over 4 million people die prematurely from illness attributable to the household air pollution from cooking with solid fuels.
-More than 50% of premature deaths among children under 5 are due to pneumonia caused by particulate matter (soot) inhaled from household air pollution.

What They Say About the SOL4

Abiodun Alabi and Funsho Folabi, SF Green Resources, Nigeria, 2016:

« The successful utilization of the Sol4 guide to construct the solar applications (dehydrator and cooker) in Nigeria signifies the end of the energy poverty nightmare. The Gosol technology is an innovation that has come to stay and solidifies the bright future of renewable energy. Ability to locally source the required materials, fabricate and couple the parts correctly even without any prior training certifies that it is truly a transferable technology that will be easy to replicate in any part of the world.
Language is definitely not a barrier to competently use the guide by artisans in any part of the world. The end results of the Gosol applications surely makes the machine affordable and viable alternative to fossil fuels. We are excited that this technology will improve the agricultural processing capacity of our local farmers and eliminate post-harvest losses in the shortest time possible. »

Lorin Symington, Canadian, chief builder at GoSol.org organizing the project on the ground in Kisumu, Kenya:

« My confidence level is very high. Some of the women we trained had never used a spanner before but they learned extraordinarily quickly and we calibrated the machine before I could believe it. »

Kurt Baumann, Building Teacher, Switzerland, 2015:

« These tools are quick to build and effective for the job. As indicated by the GoSol.org team it really did take us 2 hours to calibrate the mirrors but then our surprise was great once the water started boiling and the veggies and burgers started to sizzle in the pan! »

Jenipher Amollo, Chairlady of Yier Ngima CBO, Kenya, 2016:

« My work will be easier, more than it was before, and I know that people are going to like it because we are going to make ground nuts that have no smelling like fire or whatever and they are fresh because energy of the sun is on them. I’m very grateful and thank you for those who thought of making this machine for us and I would urge every group to come and see and support us in any way and we also give the other groups support and we reduce the way of cutting trees so the trees will be many and we’ll have rain. »

Bilal Gondal, Engineering Undergraduate, Pakistan, 2015:

« Your design is easy to understand and straight-forward to build. We achieved the advertised temperatures in the first try with none of the complications experienced by other students that used a different solar concentrator design. »

Fabienne Dorléans, Baker, Haiti, 2015:

« GoSol enables me to power for free an oven for my bakery ! »

Shawn Connell, Staff at GrowNYC, USA, 2016:

« We made popcorn as a snack this morning, (look how hot the cooker got at 9am). Then this afternoon the students used it to make a stir-fry using ingredients from the garden (collard greens, garlic, onions, eggplants, and herbs). »

Moutasem Hassan, Builder, Palestine, 2016:

« I’m especially excited about this technology because it can be built locally, so it will not be limited by the harsh import duties imposed on us by Israel. »

Jean Bell, UK, 2015:

« Having followed the development of GoSol and SolarFire, I think solar concentrators could be a valuable, environmentally-friendly tool. A communal, village concentrator could free up local people from having to walk further and further to collect wood and allow them to start small enterprises, such as selling food products made using the concentrator. Children who are also involved in collecting wood might be freed to attend school which may be currently denied to them because of the demands of the daily domestic chores they have to perform.
In remote areas or areas of great deprivation in the sun belt, a communal, solar concentrator could be the basis of small local enterprises such as cooking, drying fruit and beans and the generation of steam to power a small engine. As well as for general daily use in sun-belt areas, solar concentrators could be beneficial to communities in the aftermath of disasters like earthquakes and hurricanes. Being a low-tech product, solar concentrators can be cheaply made with local materials and easily maintained by local people trained as operators, as the Haiti project shows. »

Unanswered Question?

Send us a message at info@gosol.org.