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Symington Solar Fire goes to Haiti

January 31, 2012

On the eve of my departure to Haiti, I though’t I’d write a precis of this solar cooking project detailing history, context, resources, ideas, strategies and the tremendous potential of Solar Fire technologies. Here it is.

Context: We live in a rapidly globalizing world dependent on fossil fuels, where 10% of the population use 70% of the resources. We passed the 7 billion population mark not long ago and population growth continues to rise exponentially. Jeffrey Sachs, Economist, Professor, Director of the Earth Institute just released a powerful op-ed piece in support of UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon’s declaration that sustainable development is at the top of the agenda for 2012.

Sachs and Moon echo the core message of visionary Bill Gates’ TED talk. To my ears, that talk is aimed directly at me, though Gates makes no mention of solar cooking, it meets his criteria. In the talk he says ‘If you want to do something for the poor people of the world, lower the cost of energy’.  Energy makes the world go ’round, after all. He goes on to provide an equation as a guideline… PxSxExC=C02 which demonstrates that it is not enough to simply lower the cost of energy if that energy is coming from dirty sources… you’ve got to lower the cost of energy while virtually eliminating carbon emissions. Well Mr. Gates, I believe my family and I have done that.

History: Visiting India in the late 80’s my father Tracy Symington was vexed by the extreme energy poverty that he witnessed. In a country where more than enough sunlight falls to power all of modern industrial civilization, people were burning dung and twigs to cook their meals. He challenged my grandfather Fraser Symington to design a machine that would allow people in developing countries around the world to harness the power of the sun. Together, we have created ASTRA the Agency For Solar Technology Research & Application, a Canadian not-for-profit corporation and after 20 years of independent R&D we have come up with the most cost effective, user friendly, accessible and versatile solar cooking technology in the world today:

Retail material cost: $364, peak output 2000W for the rock bottom price of $.055/W. The machine will last 30 years and pays off its carbon debt in around 4 months.

If you want to do something for the poor people of the world, lower the cost of energy. Aye Aye, capitan. What better place to do that than Haiti? The poorest nation in the western hemisphere, has been devastated even further by the 2010 earthquake. 80% of the population survives on less than 2$ per day and many families pay 25% of their daily income to buy fuel to cook. Charcoal: scourge of the forests, lung defiler, filthy and inefficient. Indoor Air Pollution is responsible for the deaths of 2 million people each year worldwide, and is the second greatest killer of children under five. 90% of Haitians use charcoal to cook and the result is

Haiti has about 15 years of trees left. They have no native fossil fuels. They have no money to buy such from abroad. Solar energy is the only way that they will have enough energy to create wealth and prosperity at the grassroots level. It is a universally accessible resource that is abundant and free. All people need is a way to harness it. I intend to provide them with a method for doing so.

I don’t know who, how, what or where, but I know that the opportunity to successfully implement and massively expand the use of solar cooking exists in Haiti and it is my goal to find the best way to do so. I have a lot of ideas and strategies, some of which have been detailed in previous posts, but I am not settling on a path until I have spent time on the ground, familiarizing myself with the country and getting to know her people and their ways. Whether through government, NGOs, philanthropy or private enterprise, I intend to share my knowledge of this technology and create an open-source business model that will free billions from toil and the grinding struggle of energy poverty.

I am leaving my home with no clear path, just a goal and a very limited amount of personal resources, but I know the strength of this idea, the value of this energy and I’ve no doubt that a way will present itself.

Next time I write, I will be in Port Au Prince.

Peace, Love, Hope


One Comment leave one →
  1. February 3, 2012 7:08 am

    Hi Lorin.well even though you say your plans are to float,your plans are precise,visionary and desperately needed.this is a worthy,important and urgently doable project.will help as much as I can and stay connected with your journey.Hoping for this to take in Haiti..can’t believe you would have to “work” at it for it to come together..why not!

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