Solar cooker with energy storage in Madagascar

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HSLU students Julian Zölly (left) and Patrick Estermann (right) in front of the
HSLU students Julian Zölly (left) and Patrick Estermann (right) in front of the functional model of their solar stove with thermal energy storage. ©HSLU

Solar stoves with thermal energy storage for families in Madagascar are intended to prevent even more forest from being lost in Madagascar. The solar stoves are being developed in a cooperation between the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts and the NGO ADES from Mettmenstetten.

Madagascar, a natural paradise, faces many challenges. It is one of the poorest and least developed countries in the world. More than 90 percent of the population lives in poverty and already more than 90 percent of the original forest area has been lost. Since 2001, the Swiss NGO ADES has been working to combat forest loss and poverty in Madagascar. ADES relies on solar and energy-saving stoves, which are produced and distributed locally by 250 Malagasy employees. The stove production is accompanied by reforestation and education projects. In 2022, around 85,000 stoves reached Malagasy families, resulting in a reduction in wood consumption of around 30,000 hectares. This both protects forests and eases the burden on the budgets of poor families, who spend about one-third of their income on firewood and charcoal.

Close to traditional cooking

André Grossen of ADES explains, ’Our energy-saving stoves make up the bulk of our sales. Compared to cooking on an open fire, they use up to 70 percent less wood and coal.’ With ADES’ solar stoves, people can cook every day without any wood or coal at all. However, Grossen says there are some drawbacks that make it difficult for solar stoves to become more widespread: For example, they can’t be used when the sky is cloudy or after the sun goes down. This would require a storage tank, but these are hardly available in Madagascar and are expensive. Solar stoves with thermal energy storage can solve these problems, and cooking on a hot stovetop is closer to traditional cooking than cooking in our solar box stove. These innovations can promote the spread of solar stoves in Madagascar. ’For the further development of our solar stoves, we rely on external know-how. With the Competence Center for Thermal Energy Storage (CCTES) at HSLU, we are now working with a leading research institution for heat storage. This is an exceptional opportunity for us,’ says Grossen.

Bachelor’s theses lay the groundwork for further collaboration

HSLU students Patrick Estermann from Hildisrieden and Julian Zölly from Zurich presented a functional model and research results on improvements in the social acceptance of solar stoves as part of their bachelor theses at HSLU. The storage medium is a so-called phase change material, which can absorb or release energy with the change of the aggregate state. For this purpose, the phase change properties of various materials were tested and evaluated. The results of both bachelor theses form the basis for a further collaboration between ADES and the HSLU. This will include a feasibility study that will not only test the mass production of the new solar stoves in Madagascar, but will also consider aspects such as production costs, quality assurance and distribution strategies. This joint effort aims to develop sustainable cooking solutions in Madagascar, contributing to long-term forest conservation and poverty alleviation. Financing for the innovative solar stoves will be secured primarily through CO2 certificates, in addition to a discounted selling price in Madagascar and donations. ADES has a lot of experience in this area. The nonprofit organization already finances more than half of its measures in Madagascar through CO2 certificates on its energy-saving stoves. This groundbreaking collaboration between ADES and HSLU opens up new opportunities for future research and innovation projects in the field of sustainable energy in Madagascar.