In 1991, Tracy Symington saw a boy in India driving a grain mill with an ox. He thought to himself, “This boy is harnessing the power of an ox.” He then looked at the sun, and wondered, “Why can’t this boy harness the power of the sun?” When he returned to Canada, he presented this question to his father, Fraser Symington, a career inventor.
Fraser Symington pondered the question and started working in his shop in Ottawa, Canada to build such a machine. The parameters he set are:
- The design must be sufficiently convenient that people are enthusiastic about adopting it.
- The design must be powerful enough to provide for people on the same scale they are accustomed to.
- The design must be simple enough to be built in developing regions.
After 16 years of mostly empirical research and development Fraser Symington has developed 3 configurations of simple, sturdy and cost-effective solar concentrators: the Helios for community and commercial use, the Vesta for the home, and the Apollo for semi-industrial purposes.
All three models can pasteurize relatively large volumes of water, and all three models can destructively distill wood to make high grade charcoal which serves as a supplemental technology. Two of these models are so powerful they also offer economic opportunity to the owners.