DST gives a boost to solar cooking, invites designs

Shivakumar has made the solar cooker compartment to project outside to receive sunlight for cooking.

DST has instituted Grand Challenge Awards for designing solar cooking solutions at both household and community level and is inviting applications from researchers in academic and research institutions/organisations and industry. The finalists in each category will be provided financial support for developing or pilot demonstration.

The Department of Science and Technology (DST) is commemorating the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi with a project to give a fillip to solar cooking. As the first of many activities taken up by the government to uphold Gandhi’s ideals, DST has instituted Grand Challenge Awards for the design of solar cooking solutions at both household and community level to empower rural people.

Researchers from academic and research institutions, organisations and industry have been invited to submit designs with specifications for solar cooking solutions before December 31 this year. The designs fall under three categories — household cooking (5 persons), small community cooking (50 persons), and large community cooking (300 persons). They should be user-friendly and find wide acceptability.

Explaining the rationale for the competitive invitation, Prof. Ashutosh Sharma, Secretary DST says, “The basic solar cooking design has not changed for a long time. Unlike in the case of the solar water heater, which has seen wider acceptance and uptake, we don’t see the same for solar cooking. The challenge is to make solar cooking more user-friendly, functional and cheap.” The Grand Challenge Awards for solar cooking solution designs aims at changing the status quo.

Indian cooking needs

“The ones now commercially available are only solar cookers while we are looking at solar cooking solutions that will allow Indian style of cooking which includes boiling, steaming and frying,” he says. “The currently available ones can only be used on the terrace or in other open places, while we are looking at solutions which can be used inside the kitchen.”

To make that possible, DST has set out 12 criteria which include the ability of the cooker to work in diffused light or no light for at least two hours, have temperature control and range, and work independently or in conjunction with grid power.

The finalists in each category will be provided financial support for developing or pilot demonstration. “If the researcher wants to scale-up through a start-up, there is a mechanism in place for DST to provide funding. For companies, the technology development board can provide funding to commercialise the technology,” Prof. Sharma says.

As is the norm with other DST-funded projects, all intellectual property rights will remain with the innovator.

The government has been encouraging the use of solar cookers in rural and urban areas under a solar cooker programme. Financial incentives of 30% of the cost of solar cookers all over the country and 60% to special category States (hilly and northeast States) are already in place, Piyush Goyal, Minister of State for power, coal, new & renewable energy and mines told the Lok Sabha in February 2017.

Published in The Hindu on October 5, 2018

2 Thoughts

  1. Looks liked DST is totally in the dark concerning the developments in photovoltaics. No wonder they are seeking some small timer innovations because someone daddy-phoo decided to make him/herself heard. Instead of wasting money for the so-called grand challenge, send a few young engineers to Michael Graetzel’s laboratory at EPFL. DST and the Science Minister would do well to promote the efficient administration of grants in DST rather than farming out ridiculously stupid and outdated schemes.

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