Sun Buckets, Energy Supply, and COVID-19 Response


During this COVID-19 outbreak, while many countries practice social distancing, which includes avoiding crowded places and keeping a 2 meter distance from one another, for many people in countries affected by conflict, extreme climate shocks, or other humanitarian crises, this is simply impossible. The whole world is affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, but vulnerable communities will be hit the hardest. Outside of cities, such as Northern Kenya,  physical interdependency is key to survival -- be it firewood collection, water collection, cooking in community and living in dense quarters. Inside cities, poverty is so severe that social distancing is a choice between dying of hunger and dying of COVID-19. 


Sun Buckets collects, stores, and recovers solar energy in portable containers. This energy platform that sources free, renewable energy in a way that is safe and free of emissions, is an important tool in the humanitarian relief tool box.  In conflict or other fragile settings, maintaining electricity supply is a continuous challenge, as energy supplies are often disrupted or destroyed. In such contexts, Sun Buckets allow for the ability to cook raw foods, boil water to purify for drinking, washing or bathing, even with a disruption of the energy supply.  Post crisis, it provides increased self reliance for vulnerable communities. As long as you have the sun, even with some cloud coverage, Sun Buckets can store the heat, be brought inside and used as a cookstove. The larger version - Sun Barrels - currently in prototype form, can store heat through a full rainy season.  Organizations can use emergency relief means to implement a system that leaves a community stronger than before the crisis.  


Headquartered in Urbana, Illinois, Sun Buckets is a social enterprise, an independent corporation working with large corporations, governments, and multinationals to allow for energy independence.  This allows for nimble decision making, activity needed for crisis contexts. It is our hope to provide Sun Buckets to communities during this current crisis, leaving them with them stronger communities more resilient to stress.    


Indian Oil Corporation -- India’s largest oil and gas provider -- tested 10 Sun Buckets in the Summer of 2019, following up with an order of 5-10,000.  Schneider Electric, a French multinational corporation specializing in electrical equipment is currently discussing common interests and exploring collaboration with Sun Buckets.  Sun Buckets, Inc. is also a recipient of Creating Hope in Conflict: a Humanitarian Grand Challenge funding. 


COVID-19 Application and Case Studies




In 2010, the Haiti earthquake shook the island.  As a member of the disaster relief community, Sun Bucket’s Director of Strategic Partnerships, Ahava Zarembski, personally participated in numerous conversations on how to provide relief to this ocean encompassed country.  Helicopter transport was primary. Yet for cooking fuel and clean water delivery nearly impossible. While cooking raw foods was preferred, allowing families to ground begin to heal, by cooking traditional, familiar meals,  Haitians had no energy source by which to prepare them. And so, nutrition bars were provided. It tooks days to weeks for clean water to arrive. Fast forward 10 years later -- have we not learned to prepare for disaster to a location where transport is interrupted?    Sun Buckets can fill this roll. With plenty of sun, Haitian can store solar energy to cook raw foods. Moreover, Sun Buckets can be used for consumption/sanitation and hygiene purposes, incredibly needed during the current pandemic. With public hospitals becoming overcrowded from COVID-19, and solutions turning to out-of-hospital care, heat from the Sun Bucket can even be translated for low voltage electricity to support make-shift, emergency care.


Displaced Peoples


70.8m  displaced people worldwide,  this is simply impossible. Internally Displaced Peoples  Refugee camps and IDP settlements cannot support social distancing.  Kakuma and Kaobeyei, a refugee camp and settlement in NW Kenya, 188,000 people living within a 15 sq. km area.  As with much of the world, Kenya is currently in a state of lockdown. All peoples, not providing humanitarian aid, are forbidden to travel to the refugee camps.  28 cases of COVID-19 in the country. None yet in Kakuma, but if it does, we can expect a humanitarian disaster. Should COVID-19 break out in Kakuma or any other refugee camp, one can expect the virus to spread rapidly; and organizations will further restrict access.  How will food and firewood be delivered while a country is in lockdown The physical reality of Kakuma/Kalobeyei and other refugee camps around the world suggest that if - when the pandemic enters the camp it will spread rapidly. To prevent a pandemic from causing a humanitarian disaster we must ensure camps become increasingly self-sustaining in the event of a complete shut down.  


We request the humanitarian community to work with us to set up Sun Buckets cooking centers in settlements for DPs.  These cooking centers can be controlled and monitored as sustainable energy sources. While during emergencies this cooking center can be used for free, it also creates a structure to be replicated by entrepreneurs in the future as families pay for the meals to be cooked while at work and/or “rent a charged Sun Bucket” for a few hours saving long term on the cost of fuel.