Citizens for Solar was founded in 1983 by Ed Eaton and Nancy Nagle, two solar pioneers inspired by Barbara Kerr and Sherry Cole. The group was originally called "Citizens for Solar Cookery" and the reference book was "Cooking with the Sun" by Beth and Dan Halacy (first edition 1978). Dan developed the famous Halacy 30/60 oven, which cooks on the 30-degree side in summer, and the 60-degree side in the winter. This 2:1 angle change keeps the bottom of the oven horizontal, even in the winter, with a low sun angle. This type of oven worked so well, most CFS members built Halacy ovens or variations of it. Dan also had plans for parabolic "solar hotplates" made with aluminum foil and cardboard. Several members made these too. Barbara and Sherry developed the low-cost "box cooker" made with aluminum foil and cardboard boxes. They later went on to found Solar Cookers International, which has shipped millions of these cookers worldwide.
The first two "solar cookouts" were held at Joe Blankenship's house in the west section of Tucson on or near the summer solstice. Joe's house was chosen because he had a swimming pool, handy in June in Tucson. These first two potlucks were limited to friends of Ed, Nancy and Joe. Later, the Solar Potluck moved to Catalina State Park, which has been its home ever since. The reason the Potluck was moved there was to have more space for cooking and the public to camp out overnight. In addition, the group officially became "Citizens for Solar". For several years, the group hosted the Solar Potluck and Exhibition at Catalina State Park and also cooked in city parks several times a year. In the earliest years at Catalina State Park, people came mostly from word of mouth. People would see members cooking in the city parks and ask about it. In 1988, Citizens for Solar had the first public service announcements on radio stations, and attendance grew. In addition, Nancy took her ovens to public schools to educate children about solar cooking.
In the beginning, Citizens for Solar was more like a men's cooking club, with great competition on who could cook the most food at one time. Nancy Nagle was the only woman involved with the group at the time.
The number of participants attending the Solar Potluck and Exhibition has grown over the years. Now between 500 and 1,500 people attend each Potluck, depending on the weather. Tens of thousands of people have attended over the years. Between 50 and 75 ovens are at the Potluck, with their chefs handing out food during the day and providing the food for the big potluck in late afternoon, which feeds 150-200 people. There are a number of founding members who religiously attend the Solar Potluck: Toby Schneider ("Solar Toby"), Bill Cunningham, Al Nichols, Rick Sacks, and the founding father himself, Ed Eaton, who comes from Colorado every year.
More solar installers are now part of the group, and they are at the Potluck to share information on solar electricity, water heating and passive solar.
The income of the group has come from grants from the Arizona Energy Office and the Tucson-Pima County Metropolitan Energy Commission as well as sales of T-shirts at the Potluck every year.
In 2011, Citizens for Solar will host its 29th Annual Solar Potluck and Exhibition. Tens of thousands of people have attended over the years. In addition to the annual Solar Potluck, Citizens for Solar members have demonstrated solar cooking for students at many schools, participated in several local decision-making bodies dealing with solar and energy issues, and been part of numerous local events and festivals to educate the public about solar energy.