Submitted by Ivan Yaholnitsky
Published 4 months ago
SOLTRAIN partner in Lesotho, Bethel Business and Community Development Centre (BBCDC), is showcasing how solar thermal technologies can be bundled to create broader, more lasting synergies along with job creation and additional value.
The BBCDC is the lead partner for SOLTRAIN in Lesotho, and operates Solarsoft, an energy services, sales and consultancy business headquartered in Mohales Hoek on a 5000m2 site.
Over the last decade, investment in the BBCDC has included the addition of storage and work space for solar water heating installations through Solarsoft, which also meets the demand for food driers and solar cookers in the area.
In 2020, Solarsoft received its first consignment of 10 large diameter evacuated glass tubes, with a view to using them for innovating and accelerating the adoption of solar cooking, and in 2021, a further 100 large glass tubes were ordered due to encouraging solar cooking trials.
Solarsoft is ideally located next to a main highway, a heavily used pedestrian thoroughfare, and a growing number of large institutional neighbours. To take advantage of this, in 2021 BBCDC constructed a small food outlet in a vacant corner easily accessible to pedestrians and the road. We named it Solarsoft Fresh Fast Food (SFFF) after some deliberation.
A 100 litre low pressure solar water heater was installed to provide hot water for cleaning, along with two evacuated tube cookers to support cooking operations. As envisaged, SFFF now draws a significant amount of interest from passers-by on a daily basis, creating a link to the wider solar energy services and technology provided by Solarsoft.
After a few months of operation, an additional employee was hired due to the high demand for food services at the outlet. The food stall is also tucked under a Solarsoft's large "Green Lantern", which is used to promote solar energy sales and SOLTRAIN, and last week, the shop sold 4 evacuated tube cookers.
The two evacuated tube cookers at SFFF are used by the solar chefs to prepare baked items for sale during sunny weather. Other energy efficiency features at the facility include an induction stove, an A-rated fridge/freezer and LED lighting. Customers interact with these technologies on a daily basis, which provides an exceptional demonstration of solar and energy efficiency in practice.
Food is central to life, and so far this initiative is proving to be a good example of how solar thermal technology can be employed to achieve multiple outcomes, including jobs, energy-saving, marketing and innovation, and it is a formula that certainly has scope for future expansion.