Wisconsin Health Board Says Turbines Pose a Threat

first_imgUtility-scale wind turbines have been blamed for a variety of health problems by people living nearby, but what’s become known as “wind turbine syndrome” is not recognized as a medical condition by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the World Health Organization.But in Brown County, Wisconsin, the Board of Health has declared that a small wind farm 20 minutes south of Green Bay is a health risk to nearby residents. Some of them have moved out of their homes because of health problems they trace to the low-frequency noise made by the turbines, according to an article in the Green Bay Press Gazette. The declaration may be the first of its kind in the state, if not the U.S., the paper said.The Shirley Wind Farm, owned by Duke Energy in the town of Glenmore, consists of eight turbines that began operating in 2010. The turbines have a rated capacity of 20 megawatts, enough to supply electricity to 6,000 homes, and is the smallest facility in Duke’s wind portfolio.Audrey Murphy, who heads the board overseeing the county health department, says that the county has been dealing with complaints about the wind farm for years, according to the Press Gazette‘s article. It made its official ruling earlier this month.“We struggled with this but just felt we needed to take some action to help these citizens,” Murphy told the newspaper.It will be up to Judy Frederichs, director of the county health department, and the county’s lawyer to decide what happens next. What happens now?GBA was unable to reach Friederichs for comment, but Friederichs told the Press Gazette that no one really knows what comes next. The legal implications of the board’s ruling are unknown. “We’re all saying the same thing here,” she said. “Now what?”Contacted by telephone, Murphy said she had been advised by Brown County Corporation Counsel Juliana Ruenzel not to say anything further about the board’s declaration. Ruenzel did not return a call from GBA.Murphy told the Press Gazette that two recent studies at the wind farm made a connection between low-frequency noise from turbines and health problems. But on Tuesday, she said she could not be any more specific and would not provide any details.As for Duke Energy, it wasn’t invited to the health board’s meeting and hasn’t received any official notification from Brown County officials. “We are trying to find out about the proceedings,” said Duke Energy Communications Manager Tammie McGee. “We weren’t invited to be part of the discussion at the board of health. That occurred about two weeks ago, and in those two weeks we cannot get anybody at the board of health to return our call, or the county attorney to return our call.”McGee said that the company was found to be in compliance with the terms of its conditional use permit in a review last year, including local noise restrictions. Studies ordered by the Wisconsin utility commission found the low-frequency noise given off by the turbines “could not account for the myriad of health problems that were reported,” McGee added.She said the company was likely to file a public records request to get minutes of the health board meetings and learn more about the health studies that Murphy mentioned. Nearby residents are “not nuts”A connection between the low-frequency sound of wind turbines and ill health has not been established. But Dr. Jay Tibbetts, the vice president and medical advisor for the Brown County health board, said there is no scientific proof a link does not exist.“There’s been nothing that’s debunked anything,” he told the Press Gazette. “As far as what’s happening to these people, it doesn’t make a difference whether you’re in Shirley, or Denmark, or Ontario, Canada. Forty people have moved out of their homes, and it’s not just for jollies. In Shirley, three people have moved out of their homes. I know all three. They’re not nuts. They’re severely suffering.”Among the symptoms that some residents have reported: headaches, nausea, loss of concentration, earaches, and muscle weakness.In the past couple of years, a number of turbine installations in the U.S. have been the subject of similar complaints, including a 50-turbine wind farm in Oregon that was named in a $5 million lawsuit, and a pair of municipally owned turbines in Falmouth, Massachusetts, which were blamed by neighbors for a variety of health problems they experienced.last_img read more

Rethinking the Grid

first_imgWhere the vertically integrated monopoly remains, so do the problems. In states where “deregulation,” more accurately termed restructuring, was undertaken, the problems are almost as bad. While restructuring has produced some benefits by encouraging competition among generators and open access to the wholesale grid, retail service competition has not delivered on the promises with which the concept was originally pitched.In particular, robust markets for energy efficiency and other clean and distributed energy resource technologies and services have not emerged. These services are still overwhelmingly implemented through public purpose funds and programs, as mandates imposed on distribution utilities. Bringing innovation in distributed energy services to customers, especially residential and small commercial customers, is overdue and will require another round of structural change. The load management utilityYogi Berra tells us, “If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.”Even with the uncertainty that accompanies a major undertaking like utility restructuring, some effort to visualize a desired end state is an essential first step in the journey. The utility of the future must embrace, not oppose, distributed energy resources. It must thrive on and encourage innovation, internalize environmental responsibility and customer empowerment, and provide a platform for innovation in product and service development. In short, the utility of the future must be the current system turned upside down.Today’s utility model can be summarized quite briefly: forecast and assume demand, build or acquire supply to fit, and implement demand-side options only to the extent forced to do so. The inverse of this model, or “the utility of the future,” is the load management utility (called the “distribution system platform provider” by the New York Reforming the Energy Vision publication).The load management utility is an entity operating under performance-based regulation and compensated not on throughput, but on service. Its mission is to manage electricity loads using every distributed resource and technology at its disposal, through third-party partners, using wholesale resources only when all distributed resource options are exhausted.The load management utility shifts market surplus downstream to customers, as happens with all mature markets. It utilizes a robust, locally integrated resource planning process, and provides transparent price information determining short, medium, and long term planning cost values for marginal distribution capacity and energy.The performance standards reward optimization of several factors, including short and long-term prices, environmental responsibility, customer satisfaction, grid reliability and service quality standards (especially for service to low-income customers), and minimization of revenue requirement.The load management utility uses its platform provider role to encourage third-party participation in provision of services rather than to exercise market power, operating essentially as an “independent distribution system operator.” The load management utility operates at the retail level, fully under the oversight of markets and state regulators. Its functions are therefore not wholesale transactions until it buys or sells energy or other services to the wholesale system operator, thus reducing problems associated with bifurcated jurisdictional authority over electricity rates and services.The load management utility is a vision of what today’s utility distribution service providers can become, for the benefit of the utilities, customers, and society alike. Its incentives align with the best interests of all three, eschewing the sub-optimization inherent in traditional approaches that seek to “balance” economic and environmental concerns, or economic and equity concerns. A revolution in scaleUtilities are more insulated from market forces than many other businesses, but they are not immune. Low natural gas prices, for example, have increasingly rendered coal-fired and nuclear generation economically unviable, while public concern over environmental and human health consequences has made these plants hard to site and difficult to permit.High natural gas prices induce conservation and shifting toward alternative sources of fuel. Nuclear power plants, with their chronic cost overruns and delays, strain the patience of investors and require ever-stronger incentives as well as questionable cost-effectiveness evaluations and contorted resource planning processes. Meanwhile, customers and the buildings they occupy are becoming increasingly energy-efficient. All this weakens growth in revenues at the utility level. Remarkably, the electricity industry is driven overwhelmingly by three key factors, all of which are completely beyond the control of either regulators or utility executives: weather, commodity fuel prices, and general economic conditions.A new and growing component of market pressure on utilities over the past few decades has been the shift toward smaller, more distributed energy resources and services. As chronicled in Small Is Profitable, published by the Rocky Mountain Institute, right-sized resources offer numerous economic, financial, operational, and engineering benefits for meeting the demand for energy services.These distributed energy approaches offer modularity, risk-reduction, resiliency, and other benefits now increasingly recognized and monetized by customers and entrepreneurial service providers alike. Growth in clean, distributed energy has not come easy, but many concede that the forces of change in the utility industry are now inevitable. ConclusionThe time has come to complete the transformation of the electric utility sector. A deliberate and sustained effort to establish robust markets for distributed energy services is the major remaining step in that process. Policy makers, regulators, and utility leaders must focus first on understanding the value of distributed energy resources of all kinds, creating meaningful opportunities for third-party technology and service providers to participate in competition for marginal energy service dollars, and shifting utility regulation to a performance based model of regulation. In the end, the process can lead to the emergence of the new central feature of electric service — the retail level load management utility. Karl R. Rábago is the executive director of the Pace Energy and Climate Center at the Pace University School of Law in White Plains, New York. This blog was originally posted at the website of the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association’s Building Energy conference and is republished here with permission. Rábago is a keynote speaker for the opening of the conference in Boston on March 4, 2015.For more than 100 years, taxpayers, ratepayers, investors, and policymakers have supported the growth and operations of the electric utility industry. The rate-making formula, under which capital investment is recovered and healthy profits are guaranteed, has helped make electric service in the United States nearly universal and relatively cheap. For much of the last century, the model leveraged increasing economies of scale to enable the provision of electricity as well as profits and dividends.Along with those benefits come significant costs. The electric utility industry is a major consumer of fossil fuels and a large emitter of greenhouse gases, mercury, and other pollutants. The implicit preference for large plants creates a business culture that is stodgy and resistant to change.center_img One for one for one: One for allThe gap between where we are and where we must go is daunting. As difficult and expensive as it has been to install open-access wholesale markets, the realization of healthy markets for distributed energy will be exponentially more difficult. In an environment where the scale of solutions required is huge and the political risk associated with even proposing them is formidable, proposals for regulatory reform often lead to only incremental changes.Pilot programs have demonstrated all that they can. It is time to complete the process of bringing sustainability to the electric utility sector. Three major agenda items pave the way for the transition.Valuation analysis. The process of transformation should be primed with value-based pricing of distributed energy solutions. Assumptions about subsidies and cross-subsidies in net metering, energy efficiency, and other distributed systems should be flatly rejected in favor of actual analysis of full, long-term benefit and cost analysis. The analysis of the value of solar that began with Small Is Profitable should expand to all the major distributed energy resource categories — solar, savings (efficiency and demand response), storage, security, and smarts.Rates, charges, and incentives associated with these resources should be based on actual analysis of value to service providers, customers, and society. Once the value of distributed energy resources is understood, regulators can move to create competitive market opportunities for third-party providers of these services from within the current model through local integrated resource planning.Third-party participation. The utility sector must be aggressively opened to third-party service and technology provider participation, especially in distributed energy service markets. With advances in intelligence and information systems, there is no reason for electric service to remain so dumb and data-poor. The culture of utility management needs an injection of innovative thinking that third-party entrepreneurs can bring. Elements of retail electric service amenable to competitive service should be unbundled and offered up to competitive providers on open-access terms, just as has been done in competitive wholesale markets. This will lead to loss of market share among current big suppliers, but can provide far more value for ratepayers and society. With proper oversight, providing utilities an opportunity to compete fairly for some of that market share can mitigate such adverse impacts.Performance-based regulation. The utility sector elements that serve customers must move from cost-plus regulation to performance-based regulation. The old system was perfectly designed to encourage over-building of infrastructure and over-consumption of electricity. While the benefits of widespread electrification and economies of both generation and grid infrastructure justified that model for more than half of the last century, it has outlived its usefulness.The commodity model must be replaced with a service model. Instead of compensating utility service providers based on commodity production and delivery in a model focused on rates, a shift to performance regulation would reward service providers for maintaining grid reliability while helping customers manage their bills. It would also derive maximum energy service value from the most cost-effective blend of supply-and demand-side resources. This shift could align utility and customer interests while securing improved environmental, economic, and equitable performance in the near and long term.The entire transition process should be structured around a defined system of metrics. The utility sector today is not competitive, and markets are significantly distorted by the lack of meaningful competition among retail electricity service providers. In vertically integrated monopoly systems, fuel prices are still passed directly through to customers. In the restructured markets, the pervasive model is rate competition only, with little focus on service. An intentional path of market structure conversion is essential.Policy makers should adopt a “one for one for one” transition model: For every new megawatt worth of conventional generation or transmission capacity added to the system, regulators should secure the permanent retirement of one megawatt of existing conventional generation, and the permanent addition of one megawatt of distributed energy resources.The deal is easy to understand and offers a clear path toward the desired end state of robust distributed energy markets. Regulatory mandates can be relaxed as the market grows. Distributed energy acts as a hedge and price-check on additional investments in conventional resources. The retirement of existing conventional generation prevents significant excess capacity from frustrating transition efforts. The goal is the emergence of a new utility model remarkably reminiscent of the original light company model, but with the benefit of modern technology and competition — the load management utility. Challenges to growthRegulators, policymakers, and industry leaders now speak of the need for another restructuring of the energy industry, with the aim of transforming the sector toward “Utility 2.0,” or the “Utility of the Future.” But several obstacles stand in the way of realizing the full potential of distributed energy services.Pressure on public benefit funds. Public benefit fund programs always face funding pressure. Electric service providers and suppliers make money from sales or have revenues indexed to throughput, so they are often less than enthusiastic about supporting distributed energy. Policy makers and regulators, especially in restructured states, have few other mechanisms for reducing charges to customers, and face continued pressure to reduce or restrain growth of public benefit funds.Increasing fixed customer charges. A number of distribution utilities are seeking to change the ratio of fixed and variable charges for their services. Traditionally, customers are charged relatively small “customer charges” designed to recover metering and administrative costs. Other costs are recovered through volumetric charges based on kilowatt-hour usage. Now a number of utilities are seeking to increase fixed charges and thus their revenues. Because fixed costs cannot be avoided by lowering consumption, increases in these costs also increase payback terms for distributed resources, making installation less attractive.Generation capacity costs. Electric generating capacity reserve margins are extremely high in New York and New England, due largely to a massive growth in natural gas capacity over the past decade or so. This new gas generation creates opportunity for demand-side resources, such as demand-response programs in the winter, when gas supply constraints pose potential problems. But overall, excess capacity and relatively low natural gas prices create strong economic challenges for distributed energy market growth.Transmission and distribution infrastructure investments. Investments in the transmission and distribution grid comprise a two-edged sword for distributed energy resources. On the one hand, investment at the “Smart Grid 1.0” level, involving advanced metering infrastructure, distribution automation, and other system improvements, is critical to enable value optimization for many distributed energy options, especially demand response and load management.However, major transmission and distribution investments, especially hardening and some resiliency improvements, compete for scarce capital and create large, unamortized, rate base balances. Some utilities see increased deployment and operation of distributed energy as a threat to timely recovery of these investments.Attacks on net metering. Most notorious in utility regulatory policy arenas over the past few years are utility industry efforts to abolish or severely undercut net metering for distributed generation, particularly rooftop photovoltaic systems. Championed by the Edison Electric Institute, American Legislative Exchange Council, Americans for Prosperity, and other advocacy groups, the effort to end net metering is taking place in both legislative and regulatory forums. The standard argument is that net metering, which allows self-generation to offset consumption charges at the retail consumption rate, constitutes a subsidy, because the credit is greater than the cost of wholesale power.The argument continues that because the bill of a net metering customer is lower, the difference constitutes a shortfall in projected revenues for the utility that must be made up on the backs of non-solar customers. These non-solar customers, it is argued, are poor people who the utility can never imagine enjoying solar energy systems.Cynicism aside, the argument suffers most from the faulty premise that one can assume electricity produced at the point of consumption can never have more value than the wholesale price of electricity. And though a bedrock principle of utility ratemaking is that rates must be founded on cost-of-service studies and objective cost allocation exercises, not one cost-of-service study has yet supported the subsidy argument.Dozens of valuation studies have been conducted in recent years, most of which support the argument that distributed solar generation is worth more than the retail prices of electricity, and that solar customers who only receive retail rate credit are, in fact, subsidizing other utility customers.The real issue with distributed resources is that they reduce revenues for utilities and conventional generators in the commodity electricity business model. Distributed generation reduces the need for generation and transmission infrastructure, both today and in the long run. With rapid growth in distributed energy resources due to falling prices and increasing popularity, this emerging trend has been characterized as an existential threat to utilities. RELATED ARTICLES Solar Beats Utility Power in Many CitiesVermont Utility to Develop New Grid TechnologyPutting the Squeeze on Renewable EnergyWisconsin Alters Net-Metering RulesHawaii Tinkers With Its Solar FormulasIndiana Weighs a Bill Allowing New Solar FeesMaine Utility Drops Bid for Solar ChargesUtah Utility Seeks Fee for Net-Metered CustomersSolar Energy Costs Fall in 2013Net-Metering Is Preserved in KansasMajor Utility Wants Lower Net-Metering Rateslast_img read more

Feds: Man Claiming 50% Ownership Of Facebook Forged, Hid Documents

first_imgFacebook is Becoming Less Personal and More Pro… A Comprehensive Guide to a Content Audit The Dos and Don’ts of Brand Awareness Videos Guide to Performing Bulk Email Verification Tags:#Facebook#fraud#lawsuit#Mark Zuckerberg#Paul Ceglia#social media#StreetFax.com center_img dave copeland The man who claimed he was entitled to a 50% stake in Facebook because founder Mark Zuckerberg stole the idea from him stands accused of forging documents, filing a bogus lawsuit and orchestrating a multi-million dollar scheme.On Friday, Federal investigators arrested Paul Ceglia, 39, of Wellsville, N.Y. on charges that included fabricating and destroying evidence. The charges were included in a 13-page complaint filed in federal district court in Manhattan.The arrest appears to signal that federal investigators support Zuckerberg’s account of his work-for-hire agreement with Ceglia and seemingly ends the bizarre legal sideshow that has dogged Facebook during its meteoric rise.Facebook Seems Pleased“We commend the United States Attorney for charging Ceglia with federal crimes in connection with his fraudulent lawsuit against Facebook,” said Orin Snyder a partner Gibson Dunn and the attorney representing Facebook and Zuckerberg in the lawsuit. “Ceglia used the federal court system to perpetuate his fraud and will now be held accountable for his criminal scheme.”If convicted, Ceglia could face up to 40 years in prison. Doctored DocumentsCeglia “doctored, fabricated, and destroyed evidence to support his false claim,” according to a statement from the U.S. attorney’s office in New York City. Investigators also found a copy of the original contract between Zuckerberg and Ceglia which makes no reference to Facebook, according to the complaint.Ceglia did contract Zuckerberg to programming work for the website StreetFax.com in 2003. In an April 2011 lawsuit Ceglia claimed Zuckerberg promised him a 50% stake in what would eventually become Facebook. Now, however, Ceglia’s claims are unraveling: federal investigators said Zuckerberg did not come up with the idea for Facebook until months after he worked for Ceglia and that he never received the bogus emails Ceglia cited in his lawsuit as proof of Zuckerberg’s promise.U.S. Postal Inspectors verified Zuckerberg’s account that he had not received the emails by checking email servers at Harvard University, where Zuckerberg was a student and would take on work-for-hire programming jobs like the one he did for Ceglia.An attorney for Ceglia could not be reached for comment Friday evening.We’ll update this post when we hear back from Ceglia or his lawyer. Related Posts last_img read more

Ryan International School students produce talk shows, documentaries for in-house channel

first_imgTanya Singh, 12, sports an attitude that complements the digital camera propped on the tripod in front. She adjusts her headset and waits for a nod from the floor manager – another schoolmate – before rolling.In a control room adjoining the studio, four other students of Delhi’s Ryan International School,,Tanya Singh, 12, sports an attitude that complements the digital camera propped on the tripod in front. She adjusts her headset and waits for a nod from the floor manager – another schoolmate – before rolling.In a control room adjoining the studio, four other students of Delhi’s Ryan International School, Rohini, are pressing buttons and editing shots online. It’s a regular day at school.Every day for half an hour, students from Class VI onwards produce and beam talk shows, music videos, online biology lessons for the in-house Ryan Channel as part of the school’s new Education Through Lens project. And they are bursting with big ideas.After a documentary on pollution in the Yamuna and a Nandita Das interview is a spiel on female foeticide.last_img read more

Health experts ask federal leaders to commit to pharmacare

first_imgTeresa Wright, The Canadian Press OTTAWA — More than 1,200 Canadian health care and public policy experts have signed an open letter to all federal party leaders calling on each of them to commit to implementing a national pharmacare system in Canada.They say comprehensive public medication programs have improved access and reduced costs everywhere they’ve been implemented and want to keep national pharmacare in Canada from becoming a partisan issue.The group of experts from across Canada includes professors of medicine, pharmacy, nursing, economics, political science and law — many of them recognized as leaders in their fields.They note that, since the 1960s, five separate national commissions have concluded that universal pharmacare would be the fairest and most affordable way to ensure universal access to necessary medicines in Canada.Steve Morgan of the University of British Columbia says he believes an actual program has not yet materialized in part because industry stakeholders who stand to lose billions in revenue have waged a concerted lobby over the years to prevent it from happening.“Part of the reason for having so many experts in an academic environment sign a letter of this nature is to remind Canadians that Canadian experts who are independent of stakeholders that might benefit from the status quo are consistently on side with moving forward,” Morgan said.“(We are) trying to send a signal that if a government moves forward with this recommendation, experts will support them.”The letter urges all parties to put a plan to implement a national drug program in their campaign platforms and to follow through with those plans. It says the issue has been studied at length, and calls for immediate action, beginning in 2020.They are endorsing the model proposed by an expert panel, led by former Ontario health minister Dr. Eric Hoskins, that recently studied the issue and delivered recommendations to the Trudeau government for a phased-in rollout of a national drug plan.Such a plan would result in savings of an approximately $5 billion annually, an average of $350 a year for each family, the panel concluded.last_img read more