Looking a bit like a calypso steel drum, the SolSource grill cooks steaks in less time than a standard barbecue, using no fuel, and producing no pollution. While charcoal fires blow smoke in your eyes, the SolSource is clean burning, leaving no mess to clear up afterwards. Put it away, and it’s ready for use the next time the sun comes out.
The idea is simple: Direct rays using concave mirrored surfaces to a hot coil in the center. You can cook anything on it–stir-fry, fish, hot dogs–using both a grill pan or a saucepan. It’s even portable. The whole kit comes apart and fits into a pack the size of a guitar case. You can easily set up cooking facilities at camp, or just on the balcony outside your apartment. Without naked flames, it’s safer and more neighbor-friendly than a standard grill, even a gas-fired one.
The SolSource was developed by Scot Frank and Catlin Powers when they were working in the Himalayas. They noticed how local people were struggling to cook food. Indoor stoves were causing health problems and forced youngsters to search for fuel for long periods. Solar-powered grills–made of concrete and studded with square mirrors–were cumbersome and prone to failure. Several donkeys died carrying them up mountains.
“The communities were running out of traditional fuel sources, like wood or yak dung,” Frank says. “They thought solar energy would be widely available and a really good option. But none of the solutions on offer to them were working well.”
Powers and Frank went through 13 versions of the design before they settled on the current version. It’s meant to be both sturdy and lightweight: strong enough to withstand a yak or drunk person barreling into it, yet portable enough to take on your back.
A Kickstarter campaign recently raised more than four times the target amount, allowing the company behind the SolSource (One Earth Designs) to increase production. It’s currently on sale in the U.S. for $399–which sounds like a fair amount, until you consider you’ll never have to buy firelighters again. The SolSource can grill all day long, weather permitting.
Plus, Frank points to the environmental benefits (no more CO2 emissions) and a certain wow factor. “People say all the time: ‘Is that a satellite dish?’ They are amazed they don’t see flames coming out of it, and yet you can still grill your steaks on it.”