Overview of Project Surya 

Project Surya aims to mitigate the regional impacts of global warming by immediately and demonstrably reducing atmospheric concentrations of black carbon, methane, and ozone. Project Surya will replace the highly polluting cookstoves traditionally employed in rural areas with clean-cooking technologies. Metaphorically, Surya will create a black carbon hole within weeks of introducing the energy-efficient technologies. Project Surya employs innovative sensing technologies to measure the positive climate and health impacts that result from this dramatic reduction in black carbon in unprecedented scale and resolution. 

In its first phase, Project Surya will target three regions in rural India: one region in the Himalayas, one region in the Indo-gangetic plains, and one region in South India for deployment. Surya will provide sustainable, effective, incentive-based  plans to enable 5,000 households in each region to switch to cleaner-burning technologies such as solar cookers and other efficient stove technologies.

 Why black carbon? 

Together, black carbon (BC), methane, and ozone are responsible for 30% to 50% of the human effects on global warming. However, unlike CO2 which lasts over a hundred years once released, these pollutants are short lived. Their effects on the atmospheric warming and glacier retreat will disappear within months (BC and ozone) to decades (methane) of reducing emissions, thus buying the planet much needed time to find solutions to mitigating the effects of CO2. Ultimately Surya’s aim is to steer the three billion people who depend on polluting biofuels towards cleaner, locally available renewable energy sources.

The major co-benefits of reducing these air pollutants will include immediate improvements in public health, agricultural productivity and economic development for the rural populations in developing nations.

Bringing together climate scientists, epidemiologists, computer scientists, energy technologists, economists and rural economic development experts, Project Surya takes an integrated approach to addressing three of the most pressing challenges facing Asia today: climate change, public health and economic development.

In the study areas, Project Surya will replace traditional biomass-fueled cooking fires with cleaner alternatives, such as solar-powered cookstoves and other alternatives in order to test the plausibility and efficacy, both from a user and an outcomes perspective, of readily available and potentially scalable alternatives. 

Once implemented, Project Surya will almost immediately begin to mitigate global warming by reducing atmospheric concentrations of black carbon, ozone-producing gases, and methane from cooking fires.  The employment of a social science- and social entrepreneurship-informed approach will help ensure a wide, sustained deployment of cleaner alternatives for a healthier planet and healthier people.

Project Surya's Objectives

1. Enable wider access to cleaner cooking technologies

2. Leverage cutting-edge mobile phone technology to gather data on climate and health outcomes

3. Use the data to scale up the project. 

To learn more about the challenge posed to the climate by black carbon and other global warming contributors from biomass-fueled fires, click here.


Next: Mission & Vision.