Archive | March 2013

Wind-turbine foes dealt setback in NH

Lori Lerner and her husband purchased a second home on Newfound Lake more than a decade ago and loved the area so much that they moved in for good. Now, she worries the construction of wind generator on the ridges above the lake might stop others from following in their footsteps.

“Who wants to invest their hard-earned money in an area that’s being overtaken by these monstrosities?” she said Thursday.

Already, 24 turbines in the area reach 400 to 500 feet above the high ground, and three other projects that Lerner cited would bring the total surrounding the lake to 120. Their presence has put the economy of the Newfound Lake region in the central part of the state in a downward spiral, she said.

Lerner is part of a vocal contingent of New Hampshire residents urging the Legislature to temporarily put a stop to new wind projects until the procedure to approve their locations, known as the siting process, can be changed. It’s been criticized as outdated.

Opponents of the projects are concerned they’ll deal a major blow to the state’s tourism industry and real estate economy, and they want to protect local interests.

Their efforts were set back Thursday when the Senate rejected such a moratorium, instead passing a bill calling for two studies of the siting process. One would be conducted by an independent consultant and the other by lawmakers. Lawmakers would get their recommendations by 2014.

The moratorium was too broad, opponents argued. It would have affected all energy projects not required for system reliability and would in turn set back New Hampshire’s renewable energy goals, and the siting process can be improved without halting it altogether, they said.

Sen. Jeff Woodburn, D-Dalton, favored the moratorium in part because it would have prevented the siting committee from considering the Northern Pass transmission line project for another year. Some of his constituents worry that if above ground transmission lines are built, they will hurt the region’s economy.

One Siouxland community college has such a great reputation in wind energy, people around the world are looking to emulate it.

Thirty-five year old Ethan Hunter is a wind energy student at Iowa Lakes Community College. He’s also an immigrant from the Republic of Turkey, which he says is getting into wind power, big time.

“The Turkish market is growing. But there is not enough man power. Everything is coming from Europe,” said Hunter.

Ethan says that’s an issue. He says it costs millions to import a workforce, when they could be trained locally. So, he wants to start a school to do just that. Called Wind Academy Turkey, it would be modeled after Iowa Lakes for good reason.

To prove that, Ethan has brought over government representatives from the republic. They’re meeting with school officials and getting a first hand look at what makes this school a success. Dignitaries are checking out everything from classrooms to structures like ILCC’s 1.5 megawatt wind turbine.

What they learn they’ll incorporate into their school, abroad. Iowa Lakes instructors like the idea. They say the wind industry could always use the help.

“We cannot supply the demand of workforce almost up 2023, there’s a deficit. I think the more help we have to educate people and get them in the workforce, the better,” said Wind Energy Instructor Doug Enger.

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Tim Flannery derides wind farm sickness

Speaking at a nurses’ forum yesterday about the relationship between climate change and health, Professor Flannery fended off a question from a regional Victorian nurse who said she supported wind energy but was seeing many patients with health problems attributed to a nearby wind farm.

“What I’ve read and experienced is that there are no proven health impacts directly from wind-related noise,” Professor Flannery said. “What we do see is people who are adversely affected by it through perhaps stress or tension or worry.”

Professor Flannery said he had asked a Canberra man who had leased part of his land for six turbines whether he had seen any health effects from the wind farm.

“He said, ‘Yeah mate, people get sick, sick with envy,” Professor Flannery said. “He said $60,000 a year (was) coming straight into his farm and people next door can see the turbines every day.

“I’m not saying that’s the whole story, by any means, but I think from what I’ve read the health impacts are more (at) that social level rather than anything caused directly by the noise.”

The nurse who asked the question described herself as an environmental activist who had supported plans to build the Hepburn wind farm, a community-owned two-turbine project near Daylesford, northwest of Melbourne.

“As a nurse I experience lots of people around that wind farm having very negative health impacts from it,” she said. “In the enthusiasm for bringing in alternative technology, how can we ensure those affected get social justice? Whilst I support wind, I have to say that I don’t support the Hepburn wind farm because they failed to address the health issues of those affected by it.”

The Coalition has pledged to hold an inquiry into wind farm noise if elected in September, after a Senate committee last year discounted health claims but did not dispute that some people living near turbines felt unwell.

A University of Sydney study released this month concluded wind farm-associated health problems were “communicated” diseases of a psychogenic origin, based on non-physical causes such as fear and anxiety.

The study drew its data on the number of people complaining about health problems from wind farm developers, submissions to government public inquiries and news media articles.

Sarah Laurie, the chief executive of the Waubra Foundation, dedicated to wind farm health issues, said Professor Flannery’s comments were “appalling”.

“We’re talking about families who have been driven out of their homes, we’re talking about elderly widows who are unable to sleep in their home,” she said. “I’m disgusted and appalled at his comments and his ignorance.”

Professor Flannery said the Climate Commission would produce a report later this year, in conjunction with the Australian Medical Association, on wind farms and their health effects.

A spokeswoman later clarified that the commission “hoped” to produce a report on wind energy, with a section on health.

Offshore Wind Farm O&M Pinpointed at U.K. Conference

Delegates assembled to hear what lessons can be learnt from pioneering wind farm operators off the East of England coast, and the sharing of experiences and thoughts from past and potential developers which will help shape the future of the industry.

The ‘Asset Management: Reducing Cost, Addressing Risk’ conference was staged at the OrbisEnergy centre in Lowestoft, hosted by national trade body RenewableUK.The event challenged the supply chain to rethink how operations and maintenance (O&M) can become a more integral part of planning at the design and construction phase of future windfarms. Factoring it in earlier could help substantially in reducing overall costs.

A selection from some of the contributions to the conference are as follows:

Jon Beresford, operations manager for E.ON’s Scroby Sands windfarm off Great Yarmouth, outlined some of challenges of setting up the UK’s first commercial windfarm.Beresford explained how their initial approach to O&M had been hands off, leaving it principally to the turbine manufacturers. But it became clear, after the five-year warranty, that they should take responsibility for everything from cleaning to fitting new blades or gearboxes with part supply agreements now in place which substantially reduces repair costs.Invaluable lessons also came from the more recent Greater Gabbard windfarm off Suffolk.

Stephen Rose, SSE’s offshore wind generator manager, said they quickly found that they needed a good mix of transit vessels and the support of a helicopter to maintain maximum access to turbines in variable weather. Even then access was restricted to 60-66% of the time.

Ramon Parra, offshore O&M manager for Vattenfall, agreed that waiting time and transport time were two of the major cost drivers in O&M with 45% or more of the issues attributable to bad weather.Parra went on to outline the logistics options for the East Anglia project potentially using a mix of Offshore Access Vessels, Crew Transfer Vessels, Offshore Access Platforms and helicopters.

For turbine manufacturer Areva Wind, UK country director Julian Brown accepted that its emphasis must be on maximum reliability and availability, better remote control, easier maintenance and having skilled people nearby and the right spare parts available when things did go wrong. In test trials offshore in 2011 its six turbines had proved 98% operational.

Stuart Thornton, of Fred Olsen United, outlined the company’s new concept to tackle transport problems in offshore windfarm O&M – ‘a mother ship’ prototype  which would accommodate 40 people, transport parts and equipment, be a base for smaller crew transfer vessels and have stability created from being a one-time floating casino where the roulette wheel had to be consistently level!

UK label printer completes switch to digital

AB Graphic has installed its first SabreXtreme laser label cutting system in the UK at Springfield Solutions, as the printer switches its process to digital printing.

The installation of the SabreXtreme is the final stage of a long conversion from traditional to digital printing methods that has seen Springfield invest 750,000 in new digital presses, the laser and a sophisticated management information system.

The SabreXtreme laser technology removes the need for conventional die-cutting tools, and the costs associated with production and storage. Network or MIS connection enables a company’s art department to directly load a library of label cutting patterns to process.

Springfield operations director Dennis Ebeltoft said: ‘The new digital set-up enables us to offer a much quicker, more flexible and efficient service and makes management easier in terms of stock levels and financial exposure.’

It was a big decision to go all digital, but technology waits for no one and we realised we could offer a more efficient and effective service by moving away from analog.

‘We turned off the last of our analog printers last year and as a result we are now one of the largest, all digital printers in the UK. The laser system was the last link in the chain.’

AB Graphic International’s Matt Burton said: ‘While we have a number of SabreXtreme installations in the US and Europe, this is the first in the UK and we are proud to have been a partner in Springfield Solutions’ transition to digital.

‘We strongly believe in the laser and a digital future for the label industry. We are starting to see a die cutting revolution within the industry with interest in the technology increasing tremendously over the last six months.’

Founded in the Netherlands in 2007, Shapeways is a 3-D printing company with more than 350,000 community members, consisting of designers, architects, and various artists. The company has since relocated its headquarters to New York City.

“A lot of designers don’t have a means of production to create their vision,” Richardson says. “With Shapeways we handle the printing, shipping, and customer service.”

The platform allows individuals to upload their design to the web. Within minutes, they will receive a price quote for their design, and if they choose to place an order it will be available within 10-20 days.

Prior to using Shapeways printing, Nervous System utilized water-jet cutting and laser-cutting, but has found 3-D printing to be more economical.

“Using Shapeways 3-D printing enables designers to take a product to market with no financial risk,” Richardson says. “Everything is 3-D printed on demand so designers don’t need to invest in inventory or sell their IP to a manufacturer to get a product to market.”

The company, which offers some 30 different materials to choose from, ranging from metals to plastic, has produced more than 1 million products since its 2007 launch. Shapeways has also recently debuted premium silver, and will offer a six-week trial of the metal until May 14 to assess its popularity.

Shapeways utilizes various forms of technology, including selective laser sintering and UV cured acrylic resin printing to bring designs to life.

“In the future, I think more designers are going to turn to 3-D printing when creating jewelry,” Rosenkrantz says. “Before, you had to be a skilled sculptor to design intricate pieces, but now computer technology makes it easier.”

Wind turbines face opposition in Dennis and across the state

The web site for the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center features a headline on its main page. It reads: “The heart of the clean energy revolution resides in Massachusetts.”

But in any revolution, struggle precedes change. And struggle is exactly what towns like Kingston, Scituate and Hanover have encountered in recent months after installing new wind turbines in an effort to reduce energy costs and help the environment.

Groups of residents in Kingston and Scituate claim the turbines are making them sick. Studies are being conducted to determine whether the turbines should be shut down, and both towns have been slapped with lawsuits from angry citizens.

Hanover still doesn’t have a working turbine after two years of delays. So the town is now seeking damages from the turbine’s contractor.

The town manager in Hull, where the state’s first wind turbine was built 12 years ago, said these recent turbine controversies, which have also cropped up in Falmouth and Fairhaven, will someday be viewed as the growing pains of a fledgling industry.

“That’s part of creating a whole new industry base,” Hull Town Manager Philip E. Lemnios said. “Not every automobile company is around today that was around 100 years ago, but cars are certainly better today than they were back then.”

The turbine backlash has prompted some local communities to proceed more cautiously when considering wind turbine projects. In recent years, turbine proposals have been tossed around in Plymouth, Weymouth, Quincy, Milton, Marshfield, Norwell and Cohasset. Some of these plans have been met with resistance or been ruled out altogether.

In Marshfield, officials have decided to put their turbine plans on hold and focus instead on solar power as a viable renewable energy source.

“I think the (town’s) energy committee and myself have lost our appetite for the wind turbine because of the controversy they’ve caused in other communities,” Marshfield Town Planner Paul Halkiotis said, later adding, “We should let the dust settle in the other towns before we continue with this project.”

In Scituate and Kingston, town leaders have heard emotional pleas from residents who want the turbines to be turned off. But officials have been advised by lawyers that shutting them down with no scientific evidence that the turbine’s owners are in the wrong exposes the towns to costly lawsuits.

Although cities and towns have control of where their turbines are sited, the state regulates their noise levels. Existing law prohibits turbines from emitting sound that is more than 10 decibels louder than ambient noise.

In Scituate, opponents of the turbine have argued that the state’s testing regulations are outdated, established long before wind turbines were built. The state says as much in a letter it sent to Falmouth officials in 2011.

“The evaluation of sound impact from wind turbines is a complicated issue that was not considered by MassDEP when it developed its sound evaluation and noise-compliance guidance in the early 1970s and as revised in 1990,” the letter reads.

Ed Coletta, spokesman for the Department of Environmental Protection, said his office is reviewing its testing criteria for wind turbines, but no decisions have been made.

Steven Weisman, vice president of Peregrine Energy Group, a consulting firm working with Weymouth on a turbine feasibility study, said the protocol for where to locate turbines has evolved because of the complaints. The state is now advising firms to conduct noise studies earlier in the planning process, he said.

Overflow crowd at wind farm hearing

On Wednesday evening, Proponents and opponents of the proposed Prairie Breeze Wind Farm in northwestern Tipton County filled the auditorium of the Tipton High School.

The Tipton Board of Zoning Appeals was considering a conditional use permit requested by juwi Wind to invest $300 million to construct a 150-megawatt wind farm in Prairie and Liberty townships. The project is expected to involve 94 wind turbines.

As of Kokomo Tribune press time, the hearing was continuing. In the event that no vote is taken Wednesday, the BZA will meet tonight at 5 p.m. at the high school.

To accommodate the large crowd a video screen and audio was placed in the lobby of the auditorium.

Members of the Tipton County Citizens for Responsible Development, which is opposed to the wind farm, wore white shirts with many wearing flashing red lights. The red lights are representative of the lights placed on the top of wind turbines.

BZA members will make a decision on the requested conditional use permit based on four criteria spelled out in the Tipton County zoning ordinance.

Those criteria include: Does Prairie Breeze conform to the zoning ordinance?; Will the project support the health, safety and welfare of county residents?; Will the use and value of adjacent property be supported by the project?; and: Does the project promote the objections of the county’s comprehensive plan?

At the center of the battle between opponents and proponents of the Prairie Breeze project is the potential impact on property values in the area.

Mark Thayer, speaking for juwi Wind, said as a professor at San Diego State University he completed a study in 2009 of 24 wind farm operations in ten states.

He said the study of 7,459 single family homes found no impact on the sales price, which brought laughter from the opponents in attendance.

Thayer said studies have found living next to a toxic waste dump would lower property values by six to ten percent.

“If someone tells you being next to a wind turbine lower property values by 40 percent, you should question that,” he said.

Thayer said his study looked at the impact of proximity to wind turbines and on the scenic view.

“There is no statistical evidence that property values are impacted by turbine view,” he said. “In Tipton County there should not be a significant reduction in the sale price of property based on proximity to a wind turbine.”

Thayer said since his study in 2009 there have been several more studies that have all shown no impact on property values as a result of a wind farm.

He said two studies found an impact on property values when a project was first announced, but not after the wind farm was constructed.

Appraiser Mike McCann, representing the CRD, said Tipton County’s setbacks for the placement if a wind turbine from an adjacent property is inadequate to protect property values

He said the county ordinance requires a 1,000 foot setback and that juwi Wind is using a 1,250 foot setback.“We should be talking about miles to avoid any adverse impact,” McCann said.

A wind farm will change the character of the area from residential and rural to industrial and decreases the desirability of selling a residential property.

McCann said in Tipton County the impact will range from a decrease in value from 25 to 80 percent depending on how close the property is located to a wind turbine.

A study McCann did in Lee County, Ill. showed a decrease in property values of 25 percent within two miles of a wind farm.

He said on average it takes a year longer to sell a property near a wind turbine and the price will be at least 20 percent lower.

Chasers help you buy better

Also milk prices, toothpaste, mobile phones, packaging and natural medicines. In short, they’d like you to check out The Checkout, where they’ll be analysing the issues in all of these purchases and more, in the unique Chaser fashion.

“We don’t look at one product and go, ‘This is the correct product to choose’. It’s more about: If you’re going to go and try and buy this, here’s how somebody will try and scam you, here’s how you respond to it, here’s where you go to get the right information,” Craig Reucassel says, before adding: “In the end you’re going to have to choose your own washing machine. OK?”

The show certainly respects the old mantra of caveat emptor – let the buyer beware. “The whole show’s in Latin, obviously,” Julian Morrow jokes.

The team are just happy to provide the buyer with as much awareness as possible. “When I was growing up I used to watch The Investigators when Helen Wellings was on it,” says Morrow, a self-described frustrated consumer. “The Checkout is kind of a return to what I think is one of the strongest areas of the ABC’s broadcasting history, which is a consumer affairs show.”

Of course with the Chaser’s background, that still leaves the question of how serious it is. Can the Chaser play it straight?

“We’re still figuring this out a little bit,” Reucassel says. “It’s definitely more factual. It’s an enormous amount of research going into it, which is a massive pain and we regret totally this decision. I think it’s going to be presented with a bit more humour than we initially expected. It’s going to be a mix, I think. There might even be the occasional stunt or whatever but there’s certainly a lot more information than maybe you see in a usual Chaser show.”

“We’re quite lucky in the sense that in highly advanced consumer societies, reality is farcical,” Morrow says.

As ever, the show will use satire to make serious points. “We’ve got Kate Browne from Choice presenting a segment called ‘As A Guilty Mum’,” Morrow says. “It’s a parody of a Brand Power presentation that cycles through all the different products sold to parents that kind of press the guilt button.”

The boys are confident they aren’t wading into the same waters as Gruen, either in terms of the show’s format, which is segment based without a studio audience, or the subject matter. “We’re not so much interested in the strategies of the advertising,” Reucassel says. In fact, he says they were more worried about being too similar to two television shows that have traditionally been the victims of their comedic analysis.

“They do do some good stories but they generally do it from the perspective of one person who’s being shafted,” Reucassel says. “We’re trying to do it more for everybody.”

Not that their old sparring partners won’t get some attention. “We occasionally might cover the bits where they get it wrong and I’m sure if we get it wrong they’ll cover that, too.”

It’s not the only area in which the boys’ reputation precedes them. “People don’t necessarily take you seriously when you’re from the Chaser,” Reucassel says. “For instance going down to Canberra and sitting down with politicians and just talking to them about milk regulations … I think that surprises them because generally they think you’re going to be dressed as Noddy or something.”

Fans need have no fear though – the boys will be back in costume in the capital, soon enough. “We’ll do the first series of The Checkout, then we’ll do an election special,” Morrow says. “That’s why as a production unit, we are supporting Julia Gillard for the leadership of the Labor Party because an early election would be bad for us.”