How to Bake Bread in Solar Ovens – at Scale
Since 2019, Lebennon has been facing an economic crisis. Following decades of corrupt government financial mismanagement, banks started to impose restrictions on withdrawals. They stopped giving short-term loans to businesses and no longer provided them with US dollars for imports. As a result, this reduced the country’s ability to pay for imports, including essentials such as wheat and oil.
Moreover, many of Lebannon’s bakeries rely on expensive diesel generators for electricity because the ongoing economic crisis has devastated its power grid. In 2021, the country’s two main power plants ran out of fuel and shut down. Most households only receive about one hour of electricity per day, and the cost of food increased by 350 percent in April 2023. Many people in the country cannot even afford basic foods like bread. In some cases, the cost of a loaf has increased seven times in the space of a month.
To help feed the country’s population, an inventor, Toufic Hamdan, created a commercial bakery to bake bread in solar ovens. The startup “Partners With Sun” has installed a solar convection oven on the bakery’s roof. The Solar Oven uses large silver mirrors to capture and magnify the sun’s rays to build heat.
The heat is transported by a transfer fluid which is then used to help operate a convection oven, allowing it to reach a baking temperature of between 300 and 400 Celsius. The heat is used directly in food and beverage production. They have successfully made milk loaf, French bread and anything that can be cooked at this temperature. The Solar Oven is designed for industrial use in the baking industry.
The Solar Oven is able to cut up to 80% of the bakery’s fuel bill and improve its production efficiency. As a result, it also reduces the amount of diesel the country would have to import. As a result, it will reduce the price of the bread bundle that reaches the customer. Moreover, each bakery would save at least around 10 tonnes of diesel a month. By 2030, Toufic hopes to completely eliminate the use of diesel ovens in bakeries and rely only on solar ovens.
Lebanon is also increasing the use of solar energy for individuals and businesses. The country went from generating zero solar power in 2010 to having 90 megawatts of solar capacity in 2020. An additional 100 megawatts were added in 2021 and 500 megawatts in 2022. This is a sustainable way for people to move away from diesel and has become a stand-in for both grid-supplied electricity and private diesel generators.
Although the switch towards relying on solar power in Lebanon is now a response to the economic crisis than a reaction to climate change and air pollution, it is an inspiring way to show how we can use the earth’s resources to help our societies in times of crisis. The country now has a target to source 30% of its electricity from renewables by 2030. This switch will help provide electricity and food at reduced costs to the people of Lebanon during this economic crisis.