It’s easy to be disheartened by the enormous technological and economic challenges to finding efficient new ways to meet the world’s energy needs – particularly with the massive scale of consumption in the developed world. So simple, low tech solutions always generate excitement – the $5 solar oven being a good example. Somewhat in this vein, the BBC World Service reports on an appealing idea: using banana skins and other waste from the plant to make simple briquettes for burning.
It doesn’t necessarily address the problem of soot or ‘black carbon’ emitted by burning biomass, which is understood to be a significant contributor to climate change. But the BBC reports it would reduce deforestation due to wood being gathered burnt for home cooking.
In addition, it could be less labour intensive. Gathering enough firewood to cook each day is physically demanding and time-consuming. It’s a common sight on the edge of many African cities to see dozens of people, usually women, making the long walk back home from carrying piles of firewood they have gathered from the outskirts.
For more fortunate readers whose appetite for low-tech alternative energy sources is whetted, this guide to charging a USB device using a bicycle is proving popular.
The benefits and challenges of solar ovens (FT Energy Source, 20/04/09)