Both the Sun and the Shine were present for the Sunshine Celebration, held on Shine’s birthday, 25 May at the Rainbow Commons in the Dargle. We were disappointed to miss the Monsanto protests in town that day but felt that sharing about solar technology was a type of positive protest—against unsustainable living and energy use towards a more eco-friendly way of life.
In all, we had 11 guests that day. We started our tour at the top of the property where the solar oven was roasting our sesame seeds. The oven, an insulated plastic box with double-glazed glass on top with a reflective cover, was donated by Sunfire Solutions, a South African company promoting solar cooking technologies. The oven has been making muffins, drying rusks, and roasting seeds and nuts for many years at the Commons.We then moved onto the solar dehydrator made from old bunk bed wood built by a Canadian volunteer who got the design online. It efficiently dries fruit, locally found mushrooms, and herbs for muthi with only the power of the sun. Oriah offered the bright yellow dehydrated pineapple as tasters.
Next was the parabolic solar cooker, also from Sunfire, that was busy cooking the potatoes for the lunch. For refreshments, we offered tea made hot water on the rocket stove or cold herbal tea chilled in the 12V solar refrigerator—both appliances donated by the Stepping Up to Sustainability/USAID programme of WESSA. This is also a solar technology in that we burn sticks—of which the trees used the sun to grow.
Also in the yard is our compost toilet which uses the sun’s warmth to decompose the contents.
We then went to our bath area (not a room as it’s outside) to see how well our solar hot water geyser, donated by HSBC through Eco-Schools, worked. It either can be for the camp-style shower or can pre-heat the water for the magnificent “fire bath” where we burn a fire under the cast-iron bath then get in for a Jacuzzi-like experience.
Lastly, we took the group under the house to show them how the solar energy system works from the panels to the MPPT regulator, to the batteries, to the inverter (for 220V power) or directly to the 12V LED lights or the 12-19V inverter for the computer. Shine explained that most conventional houses strive to bring their energy consumption down to 5 kilowatt hours (kwh) a day from an average household energy use of 10-20kwh while the Rainbow home runs off about a half of a kwh a day.
While we made a garden salad lunch, the group walked to the next house in the community to visit Thina who showed them how she sews poi and costumes using only solar power. A few people stuck around to enjoy the 100% from the garden salad for lunch and then a walk on the land.
Article written by Samantha Rose who lives at the Commons with her partner Shine Murphy and their children, Oriah & Kei.