As a third-generation New Mexican chile farmer-turned-renewable energy expert, Armijo is uniquely equipped to tackle the problem. Using several sacks of chiles provided by his father, Armijo got to work. By setting up a traditional steel-drum tumbling roaster at the top of the facility tower and focusing dozens of heliostats, or mirror-like devices, on it, he was able to maintain consistent roasting temperatures of around 900° F.
By the time he finished roasting the chiles, he was convinced he was onto something. Not only did the solar-roasted chiles cook in six minutes, but they also sported a more uniform level of caramelization compared to the traditional way. In an informal comparison, taste-testers preferred the flavor of the sun-roasted Socorro chiles. Armijo believes there could be a future where these kinds of solar cookers could become more modular and widely available.