Saturday, March 13, 2010

A Solar Cooking Carpenter

A fellow solar cooker, Remegio Arnao.

When we are in Puno, we always seem to find Eduardo, a tour guide who helped us get to the airport during a strike 14 years ago. Today he brought us to visit a carpenter who worked with a French NGO making solar cookers. We rode a combi (van-like bus) up to the highest part of Alto Puno (into a neighborhood of Habitat for Humanity houses) where we met Remigio Arnao, a very skilled carpenter who is constructing the wonderful ULOG solar cookers.

He learned his trade about 10 years ago from David and Ruth Whitfield--our Bolivian friends from Cedesol! She is the one whom I taught to solar cook in 2000, and who has since built over 5,000 cookers with women in Bolivia. This old carpenter was fabulous, and we became instant comrades. He lives alone, and works independently. Today he baked a little cake for himself!

I like the design of the ULOG a lot. The cookers that we've been making have a design flaw in that the glass breaks too easily; on the ULOG the glass is not only protected with a hinged door, it is framed and double with a dead air space between, providing that insulation and thus efficiency. The ULOG is also bigger than the cooker that we've been making, thus better fits into this culture.

I've been wanting to get this ULOG design to Taquile for years, and now we find a local producer. We're going to buy one of his cookers for our family on Taquile. ¡Hooray!

March 24, We buy the cooker
Remigio Arnao and Tara with our newly finished ULOG solar cooker in his workshop.

The ULOG cooker has the distinct design of two panes of glass framed. See the hinges on the bottom? In order to open the cooker, you close the reflector down over the glass and lift up the whole glass and reflector assembly. The advantage is that the glass is carefully protected, and difficult to break. Cool!

Remigio was pleased to see us when we returned today to buy the newly finished cooker. He had cooked a rice dish in the new cooker and said it took 2 hours instead of the 2 1/2 hours that his 9-year-old cooker takes. It seemed to be a trick to catch for the right bus, so we caught a different one and walked quite a ways from the Yanamayo prison to his house. We carried the cooker back into town in a combi, paying for two extra seats.

When Ruperta saw it in our room, she hugged it!

Postscript: Solar Store in Puno
ElectroSol in Bellavista neighborhood sells solar PV panels and parts, thermal hot water systems, and this one style of parabolic solar cooker (done for the day).

We helped Silvano buy a regulator so he could charge batteries with his 85 watt panel.
Silvano's panel was too big for the regulator we had brought, so we bought one at ElectroSol. See the hot water panel and tank behind us.

March 30 update.

Remigio was all out of "placas offset," used offset printer plates, necessary to make his cookers. We found some at a print shop in Puno and brought them to him, ordered additional reflectors to power up the ULOG. They are smaller than the ones he is used to using from Bolivia, but he is creative and thinks he can make the cookers and reflectors just fine. ¡What a guy!


  1. Hi guys, interesting blog! I am an anthropologist currently living in and researching tourism in Puno, and i would very much like to talk with you about Taquile if you have time. Here is my email-address:

    Keep up the blogging!


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