While passing through Kampala, we took the time to stop and discover an inspiring technology. We had heard about it before we left but we haven’t had the chance to see it with our own eyes yet. It is a solar oven for professional use, called Lytefire.
You may have seen a solar oven before, but probably not as developed. It is a solar energy concentrator. Its power, produced thanks to 5m2 of mirrors, is equivalent to the one of a wood oven. This type of oven allows to produce bread and pastries without CO2 emission with the free energy of the sun.
The oven has been developed by the company Solar Fire Concentration. Through the GoSol program, they work with NGOs to build Lytefire ovens with locally available materials and support entrepreneurs in creating their business, especially in Africa.
When we arrived in Kampala, we met Brighton, a government employee. He is in charge of developing the training program for young people in the use of this oven. This one has been placed in a youth training center managed by the local government KCCA (Kampala Capital City Authority). This center trains young people from different backgrounds to develop new vocational skills that will enable them to find or create jobs. Programs include craft making, such as sewing and leather work.
The bakery is a new program they are implementing. Upon receiving the solar oven, 15 people were trained by Solar Fire Concentration/Gosol. The initial training focused on the installation, operation and maintenance of the solar oven. They will then be able to train the young people who joining the program. They are now working on a business model that will work in Kampala. The goal is to help them start a bakery business using the center’s oven and equipments. Then, they will be able to equip themselves and develop a self-sustaining business by investing in their own oven.
Currently, the program is in preparation. That is why the oven is not in use during our visit. However, it is available and we know how to make bread. This is a good opportunity to test the technology and make our own opinion.
Fred doesn’t live far. He followed the initial training and will come to help us operate the oven. While waiting for his arrival, we go to the kitchen to prepare the dough and pizza. Once they are well kneaded, we let them rest.
In the meantime, the clouds have come to fill the blue morning sky. At the end of the rainy season, we are not surprised. Unfortunately, cooking with concentrated solar energy will not be for today. Just as for a traditional baker, we would have had to get up at dawn.
We fall back on the small coal oven in the center to bake bread and pizza. This oven can also work with briquettes made of organic waste from households or agriculture. This is a good alternative in case of lack of sunshine. Nevertheless, this fuel is not neutral in CO2 emission unlike the solar oven.
We don’t lose hope and the next morning, we take back our utensils to make cupcakes and a pizza. The solar oven needs to be adjusted first. Fred and I position the mirrors to focus the sun’s rays on the oven’s heating window. Once adjusted, the oven begins to heat up.
On a sunny, cloudless day, the oven rises to over 200°C in about 45 minutes. The oven is big enough to bake 24kg of bread per batch. Three parameters allow us to follow the sun to optimize the heating: the rotation of the oven, the inclination of the mirrors and the distance oven-mirror.
The Lytefire solar energy concentrator is gradually being deployed in Europe and particularly in France. This ecological technology is used by several entrepreneurs who have created their solar bakery. It also has other applications as a food dryer or a sauna (a nod to our Finnish friends). Arnaud, for example, created his roasting and baking company, Neoloco, in Seine Maritimes.
In Africa, Lytefire is deploying the technology in many countries such as Kenya, Burkina Faso, Uganda etc… With a solar oven, an entrepreneur can develop a profitable business. Investment is the most complicated part in Africa. Getting a loan is not as easy as in Europe.
Thus, Solar Fire Concentration supports competent entrepreneurs with fundraising campaigns so that they can acquire their own oven. Currently, a campaign is underway to support 3 inspiring entrepreneurs. They come from countries we have visited: Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda.
Find their stories on the Ulule platform. To help them, we invite you to share the campaign and participate by following this link: https://fr.ulule.com/pioneers-solar-bakers-in-east-africa/.