Led by Dr Michael Gotz, a specialist in photovoltaic solar power and Ruth Mhlanga, Greenpeace Africa's Youth and Solutions campaigner, Greenpeace Africa staff and volunteers took part in an informative solar training programme last week.

We’ve learnt more about solar energy and other renewable energy technologies as well as a variety of hands-on work to facilitate easy understanding of solar power generation.

As a result of this we have acquired a better understanding of the functioning of solar radiation, solar powered systems, their economic efficiency and the potential for solar power in South Africa, the African region and the world at large.

Michael explained to us more about the solar cooker technology and when we actually assembled a solar cooker and boiled water in under 20 minutes, we were all amazed. There are different types and designs of solar cookers, ranging from a small box that can be used as a food warmer to big, automated ones like those often used in India.

This technology can be effectively used in South Africa, especially in rural areas. It was an eye-opener for me to find out that a solar cooker does not use heat from the sun, but light instead. They produce energy from daylight, not direct sunlight, so they will still be able to produce energy on cloudy or overcast days.

To drive the point home, Michael showed us pictures of himself and a group of skiers who made pancakes in snow, showing that it’s only the light energy from the sun that is needed. This means that the solar cooker would function perfectly well in our cold winters too.

To demonstrate how a solar panel works Michael led us through an experiment in which we made our individual solar powered lamps, complete with a solar cell, bulb, rechargeable cell (for storage) and a switch.

We learnt a lot in terms of energy production, energy efficiency and energy storage. I believe the knowledge and skills we have acquired will go a long way in impacting and changing our communities for the better.