Expert study finds no health risks with smart meters
A new study has concluded that the electromagnetic radiation from radio frequency (RF) measured on smart meters at homes in the Maui Smart Grid project does not create a hazard.
Findings by Cascadia PM, an engineering and project management service company, are outlined in a report released today by the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute (HNEI) at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa. Cascadia conducted the study in February as part of HNEI’s research into health effects from the meters.
Using federal and state government standards, Cascadia PM measured electromagnetic radiation in February at five homes and one Access Point in Maui Meadows. Access Points are the primary hubs for all communication to the smart meters in the field.
The study, according to Cascadia’s report, was conducted under the extreme conditions and yielded conservative results. For example, Cascadia tested the radio frequencies while the meters were transmitting data (the highest period of radio frequency activity) with testing equipment directly next to or on top of the smart meters, and then in specific increments out to a distance of 50 feet.
“The results clearly show that the radio frequency is very minimal and does not pose a health risk,” said Project Manager James “Christian” Rawson of the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute.
The Maui Smart Grid project demonstrates how residents can monitor their home power use, sometimes in real time, and make adjustments for the most efficient and cost-effective use of electricity. Maui Meadows volunteers use 91 smart meters at their homes as a pilot project. When refined, the project could be used as a model for energy conservation and efficiency across electricity grids in Maui County.
Maui Economic Development Board (MEDB) is partnering with HNEI to engage with the community and the volunteers in the project. MEDB President and CEO Jeanne Skog said her agency will post the full report at mauismartgrid.com
“It’s reassuring to have confirmation that residential smart meters in this project are safe for residents to use,” Skog said. “Safety is of utmost importance and we appreciate our volunteers’ continued support of the Smart Grid Project. They are pioneers in what could be Maui’s smart energy future. Where they go others will follow.”
“They didn’t find anything in their measures that gives us concerns,” Maui County Energy Commissioner Doug McLeod said. According to McLeod, prior to this week’s report, people interested in risks from electromagnetic radiation had to get data from models. “This testing is real data from real homes on Maui,” McLeod said. The tests show “that the level of measured electromagnetic radiation were orders of magnitude lower than what the government calls out as dangerous.”Maui-based energy consultant Carl Freedman has reviewed the new report as well. “Smart meter communications ambient field strengths are less than what we commonly accept in public spaces and much less than we expose ourselves to using cell phones,” Freedman said. “Personally, I am not worried about this level of additional field exposure and would not object to having a smart meter in my own or my neighbors’ homes.”
The Maui Smart Grid project was established as a pilot in the Maui Meadows neighborhood to evaluate new Smart Grid technologies and enable a cleaner, more efficient energy system on Maui. Often called the energy Internet, the Smart Grid is a system of interconnected technologies that enable two-way communication between different parts of the electric power system.
Participants have had smart meters professionally installed in their homes and receive access to a personalized energy data Web site. Through the Web site, volunteers can easily monitor and control their energy consumption.
Maui Meadows resident Maria Drey, a volunteer in the Maui Smart Grid Project, said having a smart meter at her home has been beneficial. “There’s no down side to it,” she said, adding that she and her family have become more energy efficient since the project’s start.