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Solar cooker wins $75,000 prize

The votes are in, and the Kyoto Box solar cooker has claimed the $75,000 prize in the FInancial Times Climate Change Challenge.

> The Kyoto Box uses the greenhouse effect to boil and bake. It consists of two boxes, one inside the other, with an acrylic cover, which lets the sun’s power in and traps it. Black paint on the inner box and silver foil on the outer help concentrate the heat, while a layer of straw or newspaper between the two provides insulation.

The innovation is not the cooker itself, which is a variation of a simple technology that has been around for a long time, but rather the manufacturing process. Each cooker can be made for about $6 out of common materials readily available in the countries in which the cookers will be used. Jon Bøhmer, creator of the Kyoto Box, hopes to distribute them for free using carbon credits as financing. The prize money will fund trials in 10 countries.

I said earlier that the Kyoto Box was my sentimental favorite, and sentimentally I’m glad it won. Two billion people presently use firewood as their main cooking fuel. Better cookers will help to fight waterborne disease and will also help protect women and children from the health risks of smoke inhalation.

I’m still not sure what the climate change impact of the stove will be, though, and I do notice that the expert panel in the Financial Times Climate Change Challenge by a wide margin chose as their favorite a giant microwave oven for making biochar — the innovation that the public liked least. I do wish the Financial Times had done a better job explaining the benefits of these different choices, even if I can’t really argue with the result.

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