Tag Archive | Outdoor solar lights

Turbine firm under fire for change of plans

Noise restrictions imposed on a controversial and yet-to-be-built wind farm – then approved by a planning inspector and unchanged by the High Court – are to be re-considered by planners.

Permission has already been granted for nine turbines in the Den Brook Valley, near Crediton, but the facility remains on the drawing board due to concerns over noise pollution.

Developers Renewable Energy Systems (RES) have now applied to West Devon Borough Council to vary the conditions.

Mike Hulme, a long-time opponent of the proposal, says RES are “clutching at straws” and is concerned that the council is not qualified to rule on such a complicated issue.

RES says its recent tests show that the condition was “not working properly”, claiming the noise from “blade swoosh” can be detected even in areas with no turbines.

In 2010, Mr Hulme, a leading member of the Den Brook Judicial Review Group, failed to overturn the decision of the Communities and Local Government Secretary to grant permission for the wind farm, consisting of nine 120m (393ft) high turbines, on land near the villages of North Tawton and Bow.

But, Mr Hulme, whose home is less than a mile away from the closest proposed turbine, did succeed in having the consent made subject to certain conditions to control potential noise pollution.

The condition relates to the level of noise during different atmospheric conditions at night, caused when the blades rotate through varying wind speeds, so-called “wind shear”.

Mr Hume says any decision by councillors to amend the “unique” condition would “fly directly in the face” of the decision by three Law Lords.

He added: “It must be remembered that a top Government planning inspector deemed the current noise controls essential for reaching his decision to finally approve the huge industrial scale wind development more than three years ago.

“RES are applying to change something which has been ruled on by the High Court, the second highest court in the land.” The dispute centres on the phenomena known as amplitude modulation (AM), a rhythmic “swooshing” and “thumping” noise which campaigners claim can ruin the lives of those living nearby wind farms.

Since the Court of Appeal ruling, RES says it has spent several months monitoring background noise levels at other rural wind farm sites and running the data through the parameters set by the High Court.

The company says the results of these tests consistently show that excess AM, as defined by the current condition, is present even at locations where there are no wind turbines.

Dan Leahy, RES project manager, said: “We were very concerned when we discovered that the noise condition wasn’t working properly.

“Working with a number of noise experts, we believe we have pinpointed the problem and we know how to fix it. However, we have to follow due process and ask the council’s permission to vary the condition, which is why we have lodged this application.”

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Wind Turbine Grant: Public Comment

During public commentary at the conclusion of the meeting, Kai Petainen told the council that he was speaking only on his own behalf. He thanked them for their vote on the skatepark. But he told councilmembers that the wind turbine grant didn’t make sense to him, saying it doesn’t take much to see we don’t have much wind in this area. He ventured that the money would be better spent hiring him to teach children about geography, and where wind resources are distributed. He told the council that the VA hospital has a windmill on its roof that he has occasion to observe with some frequency, and he contended that it never moves.

During public commentary at the start of the meeting, Kermit Schlansker told the council he was unaware that windmills were on the agenda. He told the council they should take money if they can get it, but added that they should divert it for something else. Windmills are not new, he said, and there’s nothing spectacular about them, and there isn’t that much wind in this area, he said.

A better way to spend the money, he said, would be to invest it in an “energy farm” – which relates to food, energy, jobs for unskilled labor, factory jobs, a place to house the homeless and for recreation. He advocated for putting up an apartment building that was supported by using geothermal heat, solar, wind and biomass energy.

Lumm asked Steglitz to describe the risks to the city: What happens if costs exceed projections? He explained that under the U.S. Department of Energy process, spending isn’t authorized until certain milestones are met. As an example, he said, it’s not possible to do design work on the turbines right now. If the project doesn’t meet a milestone, then the project stops, he explained. Steglitz did not see any risk except the staff time – that is, the city could put forth $18,000 worth of staff time and not have finished wind turbines. If the project is unsuccessful, then the city would have to summarize its experience in a report, he said.

Sumi Kailasapathy wanted to know how big the turbines would be. Steglitz explained that they hadn’t been designed or studied yet, but estimated that they’d be about 100-150 feet tall – the height of a typical cell tower. Responding to Kailasapathy, he indicated that a turbine could be located on AAPS property.

Sally Petersen expressed some confusion – about whether there’d been an RFP (request for proposals) process and how Wind Products was selected. Steglitz indicated that the city had gone out initially a year ago and had made a partnership with the University of Michigan. Originally, the university was going to provide matching funds because they were interested in doing research – but that had not worked out. So the city had looked at other financing partners.

The proposal from Wind Products calls for the company to construct the turbines on the city’s behalf, and then the company would own the turbines. The city would lease the turbines for a certain period of time and pay the company for the power during that period. Wind Products was the only company that had come to the table to meet the grant requirements and the financial commitment to build the turbines.

Petersen asked Steglitz if he didn’t consider that a risk – that Wind Products would not match the DOE grant matching requirement on the city’s behalf. Steglitz explained that the city had a letter of intent with Wind Products – but it’s not a contract. It states that if the city accepts the grant, then the city and Wind Products will work together to develop the power purchase agreement – the contract.

The council would eventually need to authorize that contract, he said. Petersen indicated that she thought the power purchase agreement was supposed to be between AAPS and Wind Products. Steglitz responded that the parties to that agreement had yet to been determined.

Solar-powered light bulbs now shine in Canada

Long, blisteringly hot summer days have been the silver lining for those farmers who, along with more conventional crops, harvest the sun for energy. But city slickers who invest in solar-powered products can also profit from long stretches of sun-soaked days.

Outdoor solar lights have become increasingly popular over the past few years. A new entry is a cute and clever solar LED unit from Paradise Lighting.

Shaped like a conventional incandescent bulb and made out of durable plastic, it has a coated string to turn it on and off. There’s also a clip that can be easily attached, for example, to the belt loop of a little person making his or her way to a campground privy after dark.

The possibilities for these bulbs, which take AA batteries, are endless. At the cottage, we hung several on branches gathered in an old milk can — an eco-friendly way to provide soft lighting at the dock after dark. I also keep one by a sunny window to use in case of power failure.

Regular readers will recall that I was enthusiastic about these bulbs earlier in the season. At the time, however, they were only available through Camping World, a U.S. website that, as it turns out, charges Canadian consumers exorbitant shipping and handling fees. Someone at Home Depot must have a good eye for great product, because the lights are now available in packs of four for $35 through homedepot. Shipping to my north Toronto home would be about $5.

Many farmers in parts of Ontario and farther east would have been happy to see the sun dip behind the clouds and give way more often to rainy skies over the past few months. The extreme dryness has not good news for those who grow corn and grains, and it has compounded the effect of a late frost, which put a serious dent in such crops as pears, peaches and plums.

Consumers can still take advantage of the harvest by pickling, canning and preserving. Plenty of information, along with recipes, can be found at the website for Bernadin, a well-known maker of canning supplies available at food retailers.  There are also good tips for buying and storing fruits and vegetables.

Williams-Sonoma also has an extensive selection of home-canning and preserving supplies. Sets of four basic, metal-topped Kilner jars start at about $29. There are also jars with such phrases as “Perfectly Pickled,” “Delicious Jam” and “Home-grown Herbs” printed on them. You’ll also find extensive canning and pickling information on the site.

Another upside to hot dry weather has been the slow growth of grass. Still, many find even infrequent mowing of grass to be a bore. For them, there’s the Husqvarna robotic Automower — an energy-efficient, electronic mower that its makers say uses less energy than any conventional mower, which makes it cost-effective to run — once you get past the price tag of $2,900, that is.

I tried one recently in my own back yard and loved how quietly it tootled around, cutting the grass in a random pattern, and watched in disbelief when, after it had run out of juice, it skittled back to its charging station, where it sat for about 45 minutes before restarting. It runs for about the same amount of time on one charge. It took about four hours to get the job done from start to finish. A pin code for the starter discourages theft.