Saturday, March 03, 2012
March of the tall grey poles has residents fuming
March 12, 2011
ENERGY Australia is quietly installing a network of 140 giant concrete poles from Sydney to Newcastle as part of a plan that will eventually lead to the replacement of all domestic power meters.
The poles, at least 20 metres high, and some three times that size, are fitted with radio antennas that will communicate with 12,000 sensors being installed in electricity distribution devices on the street, dubbed ''green kiosks''.
Once installed, Energy Australia - now called Ausgrid - will have its own 4G radio network with the ability to communicate directly with two million proposed radio-enabled domestic electricity meters.
Having radio on the meters will allow automatic collection of billing information without the need for meter readers.
The poles are a critical part of Ausgrid's transformation of the electricity network into a more efficient ''smart'' grid, giving customers and Ausgrid more flexibility and information about when electricity is used.
Not everyone is enamoured, especially when it means a pole more than twice the size of a normal power pole in their street.
Scott Collins has been trying to stop Ausgrid erecting a 20.5 metre pole about 70 metres from his house in Arncliffe. He wants it placed in an industrial area where it would be less visible and where there would be less exposure to its electromagnetic radiation.
He and other locals have met the Environment Minister, Frank Sartor, organised a public meeting, and convinced Rockdale Council to pass a resolution last week calling on Ausgrid to find another site.
But he has discovered that under a 2007 infrastructure policy, Ausgrid can decide where it puts these poles regardless of what councils say.
Real estate agents have told him a pole near a house could reduce its value by $40,000 to $60,000, a claim Ausgrid has disputed in a letter to Mr Collins, ruling out compensation.
Mr Collins believes residents in Sydney, the central coast and the Hunter will be appalled when they discover there is no way to stop these poles.
''People will be outraged, scared and entirely disappointed in democracy because Ausgrid pays lip service to locals, nod their heads and then do what they want.''
An Ausgrid spokeswoman said the site near Mr Collins's home was chosen because it is on top of a ridge, allowing for the shortest pole. It meant only one radio network facility would be needed to service more than 12,000 homes and businesses in Rockdale.
Many of the planned poles would be placed on existing substation sites, she said.
Ausgrid had investigated other sites in Arncliffe, including the golf course, but it would have required a pole 65 metres high, she said.
Mr Collins was also concerned the new network would expose his family to more electromagnetic radiation in addition to that from mobile phone towers and other devices.
Ausgrid said the antennas needed only 40 watts of power to operate and the maximum signal strength would be 400 times below Australian and World Health Organisation safety limits.
While the new radio-enabled smart meters were planned for all customers, the Ausgrid spokeswoman said no decision had been made on when that would happen.
Protesters gather to fight smart meters
By Andy Ivens, The Province February 29, 2012
Lower Mainland resident Una St. Clair said the new meters, which emit radio waves similar to cellphones, are a health hazard.
“We’re calling for democracy and full public hearings [on smart meters],” St. Clair, executive director of the Citizens for Safe Technology (CST) Society, told The Province.
St. Clair launched a class action with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal against Hydro two weeks ago alleging smart meters create “an environmental sensitivity resulting in an inability to be well while residing in a residence . . . in which a wireless smart meter has been installed.”
“This is for people with medical diagnosis of a condition that could be negatively affected by microwave radio frequencies,” said St. Clair.
The Clean Energy Act, passed in 2010 by the Liberal government headed by Gordon Campbell, exempted the smart meter program from the oversight of the B.C. Utilities Commission (BCUC).
St. Clair said her group also has filed a complaint with the BCUC.
“The wireless component is outside of the exemption of the Clean Energy Act,” she said.
“The Clean Energy Act speaks to smart meters, but there’s no provision for wireless.”
The CST is also undertaking other unspecified legal action against Hydro, a Crown corporation, she said.
Lending glamour to the demo was actor and filmmaker Joely Collins, who said she is opposed to the proliferation of radio microwaves.
“I can feel them and they make me sick,” said Collins.
“I’ve become very sensitive to electromagnetic frequencies — WiFi and all sorts of things. I’ve got smart meters at my place of work and they make me feel sick.”
Hydro plans to replace all of its 1.8 million analog meters with wireless smart meters.
Hydro spokeswoman Jennifer Young said Wednesday the corporation has installed 843,000 new meters.
Dr. Perry Kendall, provincial health officer, said the radiation emitted by smart meters “is similar to [cellphone] radiation, but the exposures would be a lot lower with smart meters.
“We don’t think there’s any health risk from smart meters in terms of carcinogens,” he told The Province last year.
Gary Murphy, chief project officer of Hydro’s smart meter program, said in a prepared statement: “The new meters are a necessary part of our infrastructure — like poles, wires and substations.”
They will keep B.C.’s hydro rates “among the lowest in North America,” he added.
“I want to ensure our customers that safety is B.C. Hydro’s top priority and we would never put the safety of our customers at risk.
“Provincial and national health authorities and the World Health Organization have confirmed that wireless meters pose no known health risk,” said Murphy.
St. Clair, Collins and other opponents of the program are demanding Hydro allow its customers the option to opt out of having a smart meter installed, allowing them to keep the old, analog device, which is wired to the network.
Smart meter opponents in California have the right to opt out, after widespread complaints were heard by the local electrical utility.
Read more: http://www.theprovince.com/news/Protesters+gather+fight+smart+meters/6229457/story.html#ixzz1o4PUYrXS
'Twisted' waves could boost capacity of wi-fi and TV
A striking demonstration of a means to boost the information-carrying capacity of radio waves has taken place across the lagoon in Venice, Italy.
The technique exploits what is called the "orbital angular momentum" of the waves - imparting them with a "twist".
Varying this twist permits many data streams to fit in the frequency spread currently used for just one.
The approach, described in the New Journal of Physics, could be applied to radio, wi-fi, and television.
The parts of the electromagnetic spectrum that are used for all three are split up in roughly the same way, with a spread of frequencies allotted to each channel. Each one contains a certain, limited amount of information-carrying capacity: its bandwidth.
As telecommunications have proliferated through the years, the spectrum has become incredibly crowded, with little room left for new means of signal transmission, or for existing means to expand their bandwidths.
But Bo Thide of Swedish Institute of Space Physics and a team of colleagues in Italy hope to change that by exploiting an entirely new physical mechanism to fit more capacity onto the same bandwidth.Galilean connection
The key lies in the distinction between the orbital and spin angular momentum of electromagnetic waves.
A perfect analogy is the Earth-Sun system. The Earth spins on its axis, manifesting spin angular momentum; at the same time orbits the Sun, manifesting orbital angular momentum.
The "particles" of light known as photons can carry both types; the spin angular momentum of photons is better known through the idea of polarisation, which some sunglasses and 3-D glasses exploit.
Just as the "signals" for the left and right eye in 3-D glasses can be encoded on light with two different polarisations, extra signals can be set up with different amounts of orbital angular momentum.
Prof Thide and his colleagues have been thinking about the idea for many years; last year, they published an article in Nature Physicsshowing that spinning black holes could produce such "twisted" light.
But the implications for exploiting the effect closer to home prompted the team to carry out their experiment in Venice, sending a signal 442m from San Giorgio island to the Palazzo Ducale in St Mark's square.
"It's exactly the same place that Galileo first demonstrated his telescope to the authorities in Venice, 400 years ago," Prof Thide told BBC News.
"They were not convinced at all; they could see the moons of Jupiter but they said, 'They must be inside the telescope, it can't possibly be like that.'
"To some extent we have felt the same (disbelief from the community), so we said, 'Let's do it, let's demonstrate it for the public.'"Marconi style
In the simplest case, putting a twist on the waves is as easy as putting a twist into the dish that sends the signal. The team split one side of a standard satellite-type dish and separated the two resulting edges.
In this way, different points around the circumference of the beam have a different amount of "head start" relative to other points - if one could freeze and visualise the beam, it would look like a corkscrew.
In a highly publicised event in 2011, the team used a normal antenna and their modified antenna to send waves of 2.4 GHz - a band used by wi-fi - to send two audio signals within the bandwidth normally required by one. They repeated the experiment later with two television signals.
Crowds were treated to projections beamed onto the Palazzo Ducale explaining the experiment, and then a display of the message "signal received" when the experiment worked.
Prof Thide said that the public display - "in the style of (radio pioneer) Guglielmo Marconi... involving ordinary people in the experiment", as the authors put it - was just putting into practice what he had believed since first publishing the idea in a 2007 Physical Review Letters article.
"For me it was obvious this would work," he said. "Maxwell's equations that govern electromagnetic fields are... the most well tested laws of physics that we have.
"We did this because other people wanted us to demonstrate it."
Prof Thide and his colleagues are already in discussions with industry to develop a system that can transmit many more than two bands of different orbital angular momentum.
The results could radically change just how much information and speed can be squeezed out of the crowded electromagnetic spectrum, applied to radio and television as well as wi-fi and perhaps even mobile phones.