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August 2002



Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University-NGO
"The world's largest solar cooker"

By Katharine Naidu

The Silence Hut is part of the Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University’s contribution to the World Summit. It provides delegates with the opportunity to take a break from their busy schedule and to “reflect in a positive way on their own possibilities and potentials.” Those delegates fortunate enough to visit the Hut described their experience as “ relaxing, healing and reflective”.

The “Spiritual University” was founded in India in 1937 and has branches worldwide. It places spirituality as its central focus in achieving sustainable development. The belief is that lasting development “will not happen without development of the individual”. But its not all spirituality. The BKWSU has a remarkable practical side. For instance, their Renewable Energy Project.

Established in 1992, the Brahma Kumari’s Department of Renewable Energy is based at the University’s Headquarters in Mount Abu. Situated at about 1,300 meters above sea level, Mount Abu enjoys almost continuously clear skies and among the highest levels of solar radiation within the state of Rajasthan in India. India is probably the only country in the world that has a Ministry for Non-Conventional Energy Sources.

Golo Pilz, an advisor to the University began working on the Renewable Energy Project some 12 years ago. The research and development for this project is sponsored by the German Government. In 1997 the first prototype of a new modular solar steam cooking system that could prepare 2,000 meals per day was completed. The cooking system was jointly designed by Wolfgang Scheffler (of Switzerland), the Brahma Kumaris, Eco center and Hoch Temperatur Technik. With a maximum output of 650 kg steam per day the solar cooker system is a fine example of the successful use of cost efficient solar thermal energy on a large scale. It also makes use of relatively simple technology and low-maintenance equipment that is locally manufactured from local materials.

As the BKWSU began growing in popularity they received 60 000 visitors annually Since they provide meals for their guests there was an urgent need to develop a solar cooking system that could provide up to 20,000 meals a day. Pilz admitted that at first “he was daunted by the task” but “ after a few days of thinking about the challenge I immediately began working on it”. By the end of 1999 the new system was installed. The new solar steam cooking system can generate 3,500kg of steam per day, which is used for cooking, water sterilization and preparing hot drinks. Although it was originally designed to cater for 20,000 meals per day, during periods of peak solar radiation the system’s output has been sufficient to cook a maximum of 38,500 meals per day. This solar cooker was recently described in a BBC World Service TV Programme as the largest solar cooker in the world.

The benefits of the solar steam cooking system are enormous. Firstly, it can save up to 500 liters of diesel a day, which makes it cost effective. It also has the potential to save 1.2 tons of carbon di oxide (co2) omission a day. This is probably its greatest benefit since sustainable development depends on a reduction of co2. Also, 2 billion people around the world depend on firewood for their source of energy. In this instance, the solar steam cooking system could be used to effectively reduce the effects of deforestation.

Although the costs involved in renewable energy production are increasingly lower, the high initial investment required remains an entry barrier. However, it is hoped that greater public awareness of the widespread advantages of renewable energy will help to stimulate the move towards more innovative energy solutions in the overall context of the world’s development needs. After all achieving secure, efficient and clean energy supply is a major issue within the environmental and developmental challenges facing the world community.

The BKWSU”s main aim is to teach people to move away from an overly materialistic approach to development to one that includes the deeper realities of human life and experience. This includes thoughts and values on which our worth and dignity are based. The BKWSU stresses, “The outer self of our actions and behaviour depend on the inner self of our thoughts, attitudes and values.” Therefore, they say, “we will not be able to get the outer world in order until we have first learned to get our inner world in order”. -- Witsnews

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