The sun. We bask in its rays every day, yet many often dismiss the single most powerful energy source that can power our lives.
But in Redwood City, solar is gaining a foothold as residents and businesses are using it to power their homes and buildings. There are a total of 228 commercial and residential projects in Redwood City that are completed or in the process, according to the California Solar Initiative.
But in addition to powering buildings, food cookers are also soaking up the sun’s rays. They’re a simple technology that turns a box into a slow cooker for all your foods.
The Green Sangha Peninsula Chapter is hosting a Solar Cooking Demonstration & Picnic this Saturday to show-off a variety of solar cookers and heat retention cooking methods. The event is located in Stafford Park at Picnic Area 1 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
“My proudest item was an apple blueberry pie,” co-organizer Marianna Tubman said of dishes she’s cooked using her solar cooker. At Saturday’s event, she’ll show off stuffed peppers and cornbread.
The solar cookers are perfect for breads, cakes and other baked goods when you don’t want to heat up the entire kitchen when baking, Tubman said. It’s also great for stews, beans, rice and vegetables.
Solar cooking leaves a much smaller carbon footprint than those gas-powered stoves and sends far less pollution into the air. This form of cooking can save energy and keep your house cooler during these hot summer days, she added, translating to lower energy bills.
Tubman said simple cookers can heat up as high as 200 degrees while parabolic designs can reach 600 degrees, hot enough to fry food.
At the event, solar cooker designer Allart Ligtenberg of Los Altos of Solar Cookers International will provide information about how solar cookers are used to combat deforestation and global warming. Those who don’t have fuel for stoves have used them at refugee camps, and the cookers can help prevent respiratory problems for people who must cook over an open fire. They also are perfect for pasteurizing water and can be included in emergency kits, Tubman said.
Investing in the Planet
Amongst other benefits, residents say they also turn towards solar to begin using more renewable energy sources. The in Redwood City will benefit financially after the panels become cost-effective after 10 years, but Director Larry Purcell said that they have always been very energy conscious.
They decided to install a 22-panel system atop their roof to not only save money, but to reject other common energy sources like oil.
“[Installing solar panels] is also an anti-war statement,” said Purcell. “So many wars are fought over oil that we want to start using renewable energy.”
Purcell said the Catholic Worker House is dedicated to many causes, and identifying purer energy sources is one of them.
“If we want to invest in our species and our planet, each of us has to make some commitment,” Purcell said.
The solar panels will act like a billboard for Redwood City residents, demonstrating that solar is a viable option for homeowners.
To fund the project, the Catholic Worker House raised $20,000 from the community to pay for a new roof in addition to the panels. Purcell said he wanted to install a new roof with a 30-year lifespan to avoid having to install a new roof after a mere seven years. Once this is completed, non-profit SunWork can begin installing solar panels.
SunWork’s founder Reuben Veek said that the solar panels would cost $19,500, but the state rebate reduced the price tag to $17,800. He added that SunWork charges customers the after-rebate price and then pursues the state rebate themselves so customers don’t have to.
Veek said that in the last two years, solar has “trended bigger.” Though the number of residential installations hasn’t diminished, he said the distribution has shifted towards the commercial and industrial sectors. The utility scale is much larger and the return on the investment is much larger because there is more potential for energy savings.
Homeowners interested in installing solar panels are just one party funding the project. Larger organizations can look towards banks to help finance the projects.
sought to install a solar panel system atop its roof. However, the 504 kW system, the largest in Redwood City, is suspended because its incentive claim request is being reviewed, according to the California Solar Initiative.
But whether it’s shining on solar panels or cooking food, the sun’s power is rapidly being absorbed by Redwood City residents.