By: Jackie Boat
Starting my position as a Solar Heat Outreach Specialist for Rural Renewable Energy Alliance (RREAL) has been a whirlwind of information and challenges. It has been the most fun and stressful thing that I have done in a while. I’m Jackie, and I just moved all the way back to my home state of Iowa from Portland, Oregon for my new job. My position is pretty unique because I am working independently, a state away from the primary host organization. RREAL is based in Pine River, Minnesota while I am stationed with Hawkeye Area Community Action Program (HACAP) in Hiawatha, IA.
RREAL provides solar furnaces, a service we call Solar Assistance, to low income families as a long-term alternative to standard energy assistance. Energy assistance is provided by community action programs (CAPs) such as HACAP. CAPs help connect us with our desired demographic as well as provide installations. We are currently building capacity for Solar Assistance in Iowa, and I am a major link between the creators (RREAL) and potential providers. I have a lot of independence to facilitate this program, which is a wonderful and terrifying thing. There’s a lot at stake, and it is riding on my ability to get up to speed and deliver.
Regardless of the pressure, I am excited to have this opportunity. I get to utilize my brain capacity while helping others. It is extremely rewarding. Already I have learned so much about solar technology, its myriad applications, and how to get it into the hands of those in need. It is challenging, but I’m really optimistic about what can be accomplished. I am so infatuated with the sun that I wish to compose an open letter. Here goes:
The power of your warming embrace is underestimated. Not only do you supply the energy that makes all things grow, you supply means by which we people can thrive. By that I mean the harnessing of solar energy in innovative ways. Not only do we have the ability to harness electricity from your rays, we can harness the heat that you produce as well.
The fact that sunlight can be transformed into heat is something that we subconsciously observe daily, yet we don’t expect to utilize it the way matter does. It absorbs your light, bounces around, and radiates that energy back as heat. I now know that we can amplify this effect with the proper materials and planning, and direct it as a means of heating our homes. It seems so obvious, yet so subtle a thing.
To sum things up, you are awesome. I look forward to working with you to empower and power the world. May you grace the face of many a solar furnace and keep us toasty in the coldest of winters. Together we can help to sustain the planet and preserve the toes that might otherwise be frostbitten.