Fairfield Ledger
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Mt. Pleasant News   Wash Journal
Neighbors Growing Together | Dec 14, 2017

Residents ask about smart meters

Alliant holds public meeting, gives demonstration
By Andy Hallman, Ledger news editor | Nov 17, 2017
Photo by: ANDY HALLMAN/Ledger photo Jay Kruse, one of Alliant Energy’s managers of electrical metering, holds a baby monitor in his left hand while his right rests on a smart meter. Alliant representatives attempted to allay fears over smart meters by demonstrating that the strength of the radio frequency radiation they emit is either comparable to or less than many household items, such as the baby monitor in Kruse’s hand or the wi-fi router on the right side of the table.

Thursday evening was a chance for members of the public to ask questions about smart meters to representatives from Alliant Energy and Iowa State University.

A smart meter is a meter that communicates electronically with the utility, sending information about its energy usage. Alliant has announced it plans to install smart meters in Fairfield in 2019, though it will give residents the option of using a non-communicating digital meter instead.

Thursday’s event included booths where Alliant representatives answered questions about different parts of the process, such as why smart meters are being installed, the opt out process, and a demonstration of the radio frequencies they will emit.

 

Reactions from residents

Fairfield resident Chris Hallinger said he attended Thursday’s meeting to soak in information before forming an opinion on the meters.

Resident Emily Kelly said she is worried about the health effects from the radio frequency radiation smart meters emit. She listened to fellow resident Robert Palma’s presentation at Monday night’s city council meeting during which he recounted studies about the negative health effects from various radio frequencies.

“After listening to that, I don’t feel we should be part of an experiment. This shouldn’t be forced on us,” she said.

Kelly said she likes Alliant, and was helpful when she installed solar panels on her rental properties.

“They’re not an evil empire, but there’s still too much that’s unknown about smart meters,” she said.

Kelly said she hopes the city of Fairfield opts out of smart meters altogether. In fact, she thinks it could help the city by attracting people who don’t want to live near smart meters.

Alliant spokeswoman Annemarie Newman said 65 million households across America are already using smart meters. Alliant has been operating smart meters in Wisconsin for 10 years, where it serves 460,000 electric customers.

 

Effects

Resident John Andrews said he’s worried about the effects of smart meters and other devices that emit radio frequencies. He and his wife have removed electricity from about two-thirds of their house, and take many steps to limit their exposure to radiation. For instance, he said they turn off their Wi-Fi at night, turn off the electricity in their bedroom and keep their cellphones away from the bed, too.

Andrews said the radiation from smart meters breaks down DNA and protein molecules in the body, which has to work hard to repair them.

“Eventually, the body can’t repair them and breaks down,” he said.

Andrews said he has seen people’s health decline after constant exposure to a pulsating smart meter. Andrews said he would be willing to pay $15-$25 per month more to opt out of smart meters.

 

Infrequent exposure

One of the points Alliant representatives stressed Thursday was how infrequently their smart meters transmit data. Alliant’s network is known as a hub-and-spoke system, whereby the meter communicates directly with a central hub, rather than passing its data to a nearby smart meter, which passes it to another, and so on, as is the case with mesh networks. Newman said mesh networks are becoming obsolete, and Alliant does not use them.

Under the hub-and-spoke system, the smart meter sends usage data to the main hub six times per day. Each signal lasts 0.15 seconds, so the total for the day is less than 1 second.

 

Measuring its strength

A few residents brought their own devices to measure the strength of the radio frequency radiation coming from the smart meter Alliant had set up for a demonstration. Walter Irwin was among those who brought his own device, and he did so to get a better understanding of how the signal dissipates the farther he moves away from it. When standing at 30 feet from the smart meter as it was emitting, Irwin said it was no higher than the radiation coming from nearby Wi-Fi networks or cellphones.

Irwin said he lives in a condo in Fairfield, and he expects the tenants will vote to opt out of smart meters.

John Huff attended Thursday’s event because he is interested in electrical pollution, something he has given talks on in Fairfield.

“Cellphones, Wi-Fi, video monitors and anything that uses electricity will emit radio waves,” he said. “The key is knowing three things: the strength of the signal, how often you’re exposed, and how far away you are.”

Huff said he worries about the health effects from cellphones, Wi-Fi networks and microwaves, though he is not concerned about the hub-and-spoke smart meters Alliant plans to install.

“I’ve studied smart meters, and mesh networks concern me because they transmit more than 100,000 times a day, but these smart meters only transmit six times per day.”

 

 

 

 

 

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