Thursday, February 26, 2015

February 26, 2015 - Solar Power


Next year’s heating wood is stacked in large piles all around people’s houses.  It’s drying out and becoming “seasoned.”  Even in winter, the process of drying out and seasoning continues.  Winter air is often quite dry, and winter wind can do much to dry out a pile of wood.  Seasoned wood burns much easier than green wood.  It’s easier to care for a fire made from seasoned wood, and there’s less creosote in the chimney, which means a lower chance of a chimney fire.

As I look at the piles of wood sitting everywhere in huge drifts of snow and ice, I imagine how they will transform when they are used.  I imagine the warmth they will give off when they burn.  I think about the snug feeling of heat, the glow of the fire, and the happy faces of the people and the animals who sit around the fire.  But when you look at the wood in several feet of snow and ice, it’s hard to believe it will give off such heat and light.  Why isn’t it giving off the heat and light now?  Why does it sit there now in a frozen and motionless lump?  And how did the potential for heat get stored in the wood in the first place?

Bioenergy.

Green plants are amazing things.  They transform solar energy into chemical energy through photosynthesis.  We can’t do that.  We have to rely on the plants to do that, and they do it quite well.  When an animal or a human eats a plant, the chemical energy stored in that plant is burned through the process of metabolism.  The energy is then released and transferred to the body to be used for its various processes.  So the human body is obtaining solar energy in a second-hand form if it eats a plant and in a third-hand form if it eats an animal.

Trees, being large green plants, transform solar energy into chemical energy and store it in the wood.  This biomass is a renewable energy source based on the carbon cycle (as opposed to fossil fuels).  The combustion of wood releases the hidden stored solar energy within it, and we experience the heat.  This actually comes from the sun but is stored within the wood as chemical energy and released as bioenergy.  But it still comes from the sun.

Everything we do under our own power takes energy, which we get by consuming something, such as a plant that stored the sun’s energy firsthand or an animal that received it secondhand by consuming a plant.  But it still comes from the sun.

We’re all filled with the energy of the sun.  Some of that energy is actively being used right now.  Most of it sits in silence and waits.  This pile of wood contains a tremendous amount of potential heat, but only if it’s burned.  That makes me wonder what’s hidden within us, but only if it’s somehow released.  Each of us is filled to the brim with potential.  Whether or not we use it is another matter, but it’s there.  How will you express the sun today?

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