Smiley Movement logo

Solar pepper roasting tackles climate change

Words by Smiley Team

Spicy food isn’t for everyone, but it still has a massive impact around the world.

One of the most common vegetables in spicy foods is the chile pepper, and one place in the US is known as the “Chile capital of the world,” Hatch, New Mexico. 

New Mexico is known for its wide variety of chiles and its seasonal roasting, which comes around once every year in August and September. But the problem is that the roasting process isn’t environmentally friendly or energy efficient by any means. 

In New Mexico alone, burning propane to roast the peppers leads to a seasonal emission of approximately 7,800 metric tons of carbon dioxide — the equivalent of driving 1,700 cars for a year, according to the Sandia National Laboratories.

[Sign up here to receive a weekly dose of positive news in your inbox]

To address this, people in New Mexico are looking to solar to provide a sustainable option for roasting. 

An engineer named Kenneth Armijo wanted to find a “greener” way to roast the peppers and started experimenting, eventually landing on a process to concentrate sunlight as a source of heat for the roasting. 

“The principle behind this research was to see if high-temperature food roasting, not just peppers, could be done with solar and produce comparable results as traditional propane roasting, and the answer is yes,” he Armijo.

“We used green chile to showcase the culture of New Mexico. Combining the state-of the-art facilities and research at Sandia National Labs with the culture, food and people of New Mexico is just so special. What other national lab in the world would have done this?”

Solar roasting also showed the potential to even outpace propane roasting.

“With the solar roasting we were actually able to achieve a more uniform distribution of heat,” Armijo said. “With propane roasting, you just get heat right where the burners are, but all the chile piled on top isn’t really getting heated as efficiently.”

Armijo's experiment was showcased at the recent International Conference on Energy Sustainability.

Inspired to Act?

DONATE: The American Solar Energy Society is an organization that advocates for 100% renewable clean energy.

SUPPORT: Look into ways to make your own food habits more sustainable like seeking out milk or meat alternatives or buying fruits from local farmer’s markets.


This article aligns with the following UN SDGs

You might also like…