Saturday, November 30, 2013

Soil Compaction and other Pollutants from HVDC Transmission

This is a DMI experimental subsoiler.  Bill Dietrich at DMI made this somewhere about 1990 or 1991.  The outside two are regular subsoiler shanks with the center pivoting on a hydraulic cylinder.  It could go down about 30 to 36 inches deep with a tip 15 inches wide.  It was quite a piece of equipment.  I wish I had it today.  It was literally a one of a kind. 

 Sorry for the quality.  It's an old photo that been scanned. 

Here’s the story behind how it ended up at Prairie Center for one fall.

Back in the drought of 1988, the home field at Prairie Center produced 165 bushels per acre on the north end.  The south end from the slope at the shed to the road (about 25 acres or so) produced 35 bushel corn.  Traditionally corn directly over field tiles produce less in the mixed dirt, but in 1988 this corn was considerably taller.  You could tell exactly where ever tile was laid in the south end of the field along Route 52.

Out of curiosity my Dad, Harold Thorsen, wondered why.  So we went out with a backhoe and dug about 4 holes in the field and we learned a lot about the importance of subsoil, compaction, and the importance of root development.   While the field is covered in uniform black topsoil, the subsoil is vastly different.  Much of the field has a nice brown subsoil that breaks up easily.  It has a good natural mellow texture with just the right amount of sand silt and clay.

The south end is something completely different.  That subsoil is a blue clay.  Yes.  Right below the topsoil it’s a blue clay.  After digging a hole 5 foot deep, you need a pocket knife to break chunks off chunks of the subsoil off the wall.  It’s unbelievably tight.   What we learned was corn roots will go down 4 feet deep but soil compaction is a key limiting factor. 

After talking to a person who talked to a person who talked to Bill Dietrich at DMI, this little 3 shank subsoiler was created.  Dietrich tried it out everywhere from Minnesota to Goodfield.  Dad ripped that Rutland soil 30 to 36 inches deep in an attempt to break up that blue clay.  A Deere 8630 was used and he moved over 30 inches every trip across the south end of the field. 

Yes we tore out field tile by doing it.  That was known from the start and we retiled it.   I was the guy walking the ditch behind the tiling machine covering the new tile with a fresh layer of dirt by hand.  Yes, I was a ditch digger once, and what I saw there really surprised me.    Every 30 inches there was a hole big enough I could stick my entire arm in it.  I could get on my hands and knees and pull out chunks of blue clay.  The triangle shaped hole wasn’t much bigger than my hand but it was consistent every 30 inches.

A year later we laid more drainage tile.  Those holes had closed up.  They were about the diameter of a golf ball but every one of them poured out water as the trench was dug.  There was enough backpressure that every one of them would blow out the dirt that had plugged the hole from the trencher wheel. 

I don’t know how many more years that subsoiler benefited the soil.  While it’s highly unlikely, maybe that soil is so tight and those holes are deep enough they are still there today.  But more importantly what I learned from that experience is the importance of having a good soil texture as deep as possible.  

Funny how back in the late 80's and the 90's every governmental "expert" and university guru was preaching the virtues of no-till.  A few contrarian farmers didn't drink the kool-aid and went in the opposite direction.  Today I bet the number of farmers who practice deep tillage out numbers no-tillers 4 to 1.    

To grow corn over 200 bushel, besides seed genetics, and fertilizer, you need to create as mellow of a soil as you can.  After Dad passed away, I made a few mistakes for the first couple of years, but it didn’t take long to go back to some of the things he was doing right.  One of them is running the subsoiler over corn stalks and bean stubble and parking the disc. 

The theory goes, this year’s bean stubble is going to be next year’s corn, and corn is king.  Corn is where the profit is made.  It’s typically more profitable than soybeans, so we do everything we can to promote root growth and running the subsoiler over the bean ground is the first step.  After that, we do everything we can to promote root development.   Triple stack seed is used.  A little insecticide is also used, even on corn beans rotation.   Spring tillage is also reduced to a minimum.  Everything is done to give the corn roots the best chance to grow as deep as possible.

Yeah, maybe this is a little overkill.  Maybe too much is spent on seed and maybe the little extra insecticide isn’t necessary, but I firmly believe the secret to 250 bushel corn versus 175 bushel corn is root development.  Yes, I’ve only been doing this since 2008.  I am no expert at growing corn, but I was pretty proud of last year’s 185 bushel yield in the field RICL wants to cross.  For the drought of 2012, that beat Dad’s best of 165 bushel per acre for part of the field just south of it during the 1988 drought.    

It’s funny.  The only yield my Dad ever spoke about was the 165 bushel and 35 bushel per acre in the same field from the worst drought he had seen.  2012 had soybeans in that field and we didn’t see a yield change over the Rutland blue clay subsoil.  (FYI, Soils are named like Rutland, Muscatine, Flanagan.  When you see the name of a small town in the Midwest, if it's not named after an indian, there is a good chance it's named after a soil.)  Proper management of soil compaction is key. 

This year I think that field did 245 bushels  for a field average.  I’ll know for sure the yield in about a week when we empty the bins.  We also didn’t see a difference in yield from the north end with the better subsoil to the blue clay in the south end of the field.  As soon as the harvest was finished, we were asking ourselves what we need to do different to get reach 265 bushel corn.  The key is still root development. 

I hope this explains to you transmission folk why farmers treat soil compaction from the construction of RICL as such a great threat.  We take our corn yields very seriously and we are very protective of the soil.  It’s not just dirt.  Greater yields will not be reached without being protective of our soil's condition. 

Root development is also why we need to know about the effects of stray current.  There isn’t much out there written about it and the effects on plants, and even less about stray current’s effects on corn specifically.  What I can piece together from a couple different papers on the subject, there is a potential negative effect with stunted root growth, but at this point there is no definitive proof. 
After Stray Current Pollution, yes, there is a concern about the effects of electrostatic fields on the leaves and pollination.  From what has been found on this subject, Clean Line’s informational paper isn’t very reliable information and it’s a legitimate concern to ask about electrostatic fields created by 3,500 MW HVDC transmission.
Yes, how Clean Line Energy has steered the conversation towards stray voltage and electromagnetic fields, issues that pertain to AC transmission, is disturbing .  It speaks volumes that Clean Line has kept the subject steered towards issues that do not exist with HVDC.  In spite of what self proclaimed environmentalists claim, growing corn at today’s yields is much more than planting GMO seed and fertilizing the heck out of the ground.  It’s also about protecting the soil from compaction and guarding against pollutions that will damage the soil and reduce the yields. 

So, Jimmy, you do need to explain how much electrostatic we can expect in our fields and what kind of stray current levels we will see leaking from a 3,500 MW HVDC powerline that will deliver the “more power than three times the Hoover dam”.  If it will not be a problem, then will this right of way easment butt up next to the existing pipeline easement?  

You know if we don’t get the information from Clean Line Energy, we will eventually find it.  We’ve done it before when we desired to find the truth about Clean Line Energy and it’s slowly being pieced together.  The real masters at growing corn are in Iowa.   I’m just a gardener compared to the farmers in Iowa. 

I see Clean Line Energy has found its analyst.  Maybe it’s time Jimmy starts putting out want ads for an agronomist.  Eventually, you’re going to need it.  Growing corn is far over the heads of Team Clean Line with experts like Hans, the political science major. ...a political science major...why don't you just bring someone from New York City to talk to us Mayberry folk.  You  people are so in over your heads with this HVDC powerline.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Why Won't RICL Follow Interstate 80 Corridor? Stray Current Pollution.

Have you ever wondered why Clean Line Energy doesn’t have RICL follow an Interstate 80 corridor RICL?

Yes, it’s a stupid question.  The obvious answer is “because the federal government doesn’t want RICL along its interstate and the towns along the way don’t want RICL passing through their towns either”. 

It seems such a simple question but I think there’s a deeper reason.  It’s found in paper "Stray Currents and Pollution of the Environment"   This is an interesting paper worth reading.  Like the title obviously states, it refers stray current from HVDC transmission as an environmental pollution.  Stray current rusts and corrodes anything it comes within contact, including but not limited to pipelines, natural gas distribution lines, fiber optics, city water lines, and any other type of buried urban infrastructure. 

Now I understand why RICL has no desire to follow an Interstate 80 corridor.  If there is a short, the stray current could also corrode the rebar in the road.  Plus every city along the way would potentially have issues of stray current in the town’s infrastructure.  No town would want to risk the powerline depreciating its water, sewer, fiber optic and natural gas lines that cross or run parallel to the HVDC powerline. 

Perhaps a right of way lawyer or an adviser at HDR Engineering told Clean  Line Energy from the start they were nuts to have any notion of following the old Rock Island Rail Line, but rather use traditional transmission siting process by intersecting farm fields.   

Clean Line Energy commits an Environmental Injustice as defined by the Environmental Protection Agency by choosing farmland to place Stray Current Pollution.  Less people will notice the Stray Current Pollution in rural Iowa and Illinois.  A far lesser percentage will complain about the Stray Current from HVDC powerline.    

Sure, the Stray Current Pollution lessening the value of farmland as it will corrode any underground infrastructure.  Who wants to build anything near a powerline that corrodes anything near it?    Which I have to ask again, how far out into the field away from the Northern Borders pipeline will RICL want their easement?  1,000 feet?  What value is the land between a 3,500megawatt powerline and a natural gas pipeline?  That gap between the right-of-ways is nothing more than free easement to RICL.

This brings us to an interesting quote in a KWWL story done 10 days ago; Proposed Powerline  Leaves Farmers Concerned.  Charlie Ayr a spokesman for Clean Line Energy makes a very interesting quote.

"There is no health impact for a (direct current) line, no health impact associated with the electric or magnetic fields," said Charlie Ary, an Associate with Clean Line.

Nice one Charlie.  Keep telling the papers and whoever else willing to listen there is no hazard associated with HVDC magnetic fields.  Charlie, keep avoiding the real HVDC concern with stray current.  Pretend stray current issues do not exist and are not worse with HVDC.  How do you think Stray Current Pollution with it's documented corrosive affects will play out in an eminent domain hearing?  Shouldn't there be an additional payment to landowners who are forced to absorb this pollution from RICL?  What kind of costs and damages do you think a local jury will place on HVDC Stray Current Pollution?

This is a classic social injustice scenario.  Siting a HVDC powerline in rural areas where the residents affected are economically poorer and have a weaker voice is not unusual, but for Clean Line Energy to completely avoid the issue of Stray Current and focus on Electro Magnetic Fields is …well it’s deceitful.   This powerline will have a magnetic affect as more environmentally undesirable projects are built near RICL.  It will clearly lessen the value of the entire property for the fields affected. 

Now that I think of it, if RICL is the powerline for the wind turbines, the affected landowners will be forced to deal with the excrement of the wind turbines.  Stray current pollution is the excrement of “clean” wind energy and HVDC transmission.  What else would you call stray current pollution from the powerline for “clean” wind energy but excrement?  Perhaps manure is more fitting. 

There’s nothing clean about Clean Line Energy.  It’s the manure of “clean” wind energy.  There is a better solution than 500 miles of Stray Current Pollution, like building generation in eastern states closer to the energy consumption.  

BTW, when the Department of Energy writes it’s Environmental Impact Statement for Plains & Eastern Clean Line and addresses Environmental Justice, I do hope and expect Stray Current Pollution from HVDC to be discussed in depth.    

Social & Environmental Justice as defined by the EPA
 Environmental Justice is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies. EPA has this goal for all communities and persons across this Nation. It will be achieved when everyone enjoys the same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards and equal access to the decision-making process to have a healthy environment in which to live, learn, and work.

Doofus Comment No. 2783 by Clean Line Energy

Guess which Clean Line Energy employee told a  landowner they could put towers on each side of a runway and droop the wires so airplanes can takeoff and fly over the wires?

Was that in the official talking points or was that just thinking on your feet?

The Sociology of Team Clean Line

I regret not saying this earlier, before the Iowa county meetings with the IUC.

Did anyone else notice the hierarchy of the "Clean" Line Energy management as they co-mingled outside the gym?  Jimmy and the barn coat was a big one and no one missed the intent of that one, but there was much more being played out besides Jimmy's coat.

There was a definite hierarchy with the white shirt associates, managers, and development directors staying together.  They didn’t reach out to the public much with the public being adverse to their project. 

Then there was midlevel management with Louisa Kinoshi, and a couple engineering people.  These few were a bit odd.  In some respects they looked the loneliest…except for Jayshree Desai.  While she was more identifiable with the top tier, flat out, she looked to be the most disengaged loneliest person in the building.  Even still, these few in the middle weren’t top tier but they weren’t the White Shirts at the bottom.    

The top tier of the “Clean” Line hierarchy was Jimmy G, Aaron Chambers, Jayshree and the lawyer types.  These were much more “executive” in their conduct and dress. 

It was fascinating to watch them interact outside the gymnasium.  They reminded me of what Dr. James Dobson (Focus on the Family) once said about watching junior high girls co-mingle and interact.  Some try to fit in.  Some KNOW they are the elite and they are what the others what to be like….and there is the wall flower.   

I found it ironic this was playing out just outside a school gymnasium.  The best place to watch such a social hierarchy is a junior high or high school basketball game with the students who aren’t there for the game, but for the socializing.

There was one person on the Clean Line team who was very comfortable in being himself.  I won’t embarrass this person by identifying him or her, but if you watched, this person’s conducted slightly more independently without playing the junior high sociology games.  In a very quiet unassuming manner, this person was much more relaxed, never showed signs of arrogance or let the “Clean” Line sell job out shadow the person’s own personality and showed an unusual relax confidence and stood out from the team quietly.  If there was one person who I would guess to be a decent person and most identifiable with the Mayberry crowd, this was it.  Perhaps Clean Line’s most underutilized asset.  With Clean Line’s inability to engage with rural Iowa and Illinois, it’s not surprising they fail to see the asset they have.

Anyway, there are a couple more county meeting in Iowa.  If you get a moment, stand back and watch how this group interacts within itself.  The hierarchy is very junior high and fascinating. You don't have to know titles.  Jut watch how they interact.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Questions about the Potential Hazards from Stray Current of HVDC Powerlines (NOT STRAY VOLTAGE)

This last week or two the Department of Energy has been Tweeting about Edison versus Tesla, and  alternating current versus direct current.  It’s been mostly silly stuff, but I guess there are a couple grade school teachers in America who used this for classroom projects.  Like most energy companies, what comes out of the DoE in tweets is silly fluff, but the constant trickle of AC versus DC drivel got me thinking. 

RICL has maintained HVDC powerlines do not emit stray voltage or Electro Magnetic Fields (EMF) and the safety hazards and health concerns associated with stray voltage and EMF are just not there with HVDC.  It’s hard to argue with basic science and this simple logic, so for the last year I’ve stayed away from this issue but I’m starting to understand the hazards associated with HVDC powerlines.  Like most everything that comes from “Clean” Line Energy, the company speaks in half truths about the hazards of HVDC.

Yes, I believe them when they say stray voltage and EMF is not a hazard with HVDC, but the old saying “It’s not the volts, it’s the amps that kills you” more accurately described HVDC powerlines.  The pipeline industry has done a great job documenting this hazard.  HVDC powerlines do not emit stray voltage.  HVDC powerlines do emit stray amperage, or stray current, or in the simplest of terms “static electricity”. 

Think back to grade school science.  Static electricity is when one object has a positive charge and another object has a negative charge.  The two objects get close enough together there is a spark as the positive charge seek a balance.  This is stray current.   The problem the pipeline industry sees with stray current from a HVDC powerline is as it returns to earth, if it finds a nice big steel  tube, the charge will go into the pipeline and cause it to corrode (rust out).  This creates a new series of questions that are not associated with EMF or stray voltage.

1.        What does this static electricity do to corn?  Does it affect the leaves?  Will it “burn” the leaves?  Will it promote vegetation growth and reduce yields?  More importantly, what does this stray current do to the roots.  From what I know about growing corn, the secret to high yields is largely root development.  Deep tillage has become popular, not only to reduce soil compaction but to improve root development with the belief the better root development produces better yield. 

So if stray current from a HVDC powerline affects a pipeline in the ground, what does stray current from a ginormous 3,500 megawatt HVDC powerline do to the root development?  Has any university studied this on a 3,500 megawatt HVDC powerline?

2.       What are the safety hazards of working under a HVDC powerline?

 I have read where the pipeline industry recommends dragging a chain behind pickups to keep the vehicle grounded so a buildup of static electricity does not happen. 

As farmers, Do I need to be concerned when working our fields?  Sure, tillage equipment will be grounded, and diesel powered equipment is probably much less of a hazard. 

What about sprayers that travels through the plants without a ground? 

What about utility vehicles like my John Deere Gator? 

Suppose I am spraying fence lines under the HVDC powerline in my gasoline powered Gator with a Briggs & Stratton gasoline engine in the back driving the spray pump.  It’s mounted on a wood pallet sitting on a rubber bed liner.   I generally keep an extra gallon gas can with me. Should I take precautions against static electrical shock?

This is no joke and no I don’t lie awake at nights thinking this stuff up.  This is exactly how I spray fence lines around the fields.  RICL would be 12,600 acres of easement or 500 miles of farm ground.  How many other farmers spray in a similar manner with an ATV or UTV?

I know of no other existing HVDC powerlines in the United States as large as RICL to comparable hazard. The CU Powerline in Minnesota is much smaller.  The HVDC powerlines in the northeast are smaller.   So how big is this hazard from static electricity that Clean Line Energy has avoided to discuss with farmers? 

With over 500 miles of easement, as a risk assessment,   how long will it take someone somewhere to create a gasoline fire? 

3.       Finally what are the health hazards of stray current from a HVDC powerline of this size for those living near it?  I really don’t care about the hazards of stray voltage or EMF.  This is a HVDC powerline.  If stray current passing through a pipeline or corn roots has an effect, what are the effects on a person?

It’s half-truths for the company to say stray current or EMF are not hazards associated with HVDC.  For the last two years “Clean” Line Energy as avoided the subject of stray current pollution and static electricity.  Not once have I seen the company discuss Stray Current and all it takes is a little Googling to see it exists.  

From what I’ve heard, The closest Clean Line has come to this subject was when a landowner who would be living near RICL was told by HDR Engineering at an Illinois informational meeting that the powerline would make neat crackling noises during a thunderstorm.  That’s static electricity and that’s lame talking points to avoid the real subject.

So if anyone in Iowa sees Hans Detweiler, Beth Conley, or Jimmy Glotfelty, please ask them about these potential hazards.  

Below is a list of links to stray current issues.  Again, most of these are coming from the AC side of electricity and begs the question; How much worse is the stray current problem from a HVDC powerline as it is already documented by the pipeline industry?

Ground Current Plagues Ontario Farms says electrical Expert  December 2012

One more with a quote.  This is what the industry says to white wash the safety hazards of HVDC and static electricity.  Keep in mind this advice is from the industries propaganda in an attempt to mitigate concerns.
Is it safe to drive or park a car or truck near a
transmission line?
...Such induced charges are annoying, but harmless.
If your vehicle tends to develop a mild electrical charge, it
can be grounded by attaching a chain that is long enough to
touch the ground.
There have been no reported cases of fires caused by static
sparks induced by transmission lines. However, the refueling
of vehicles under lines could pose a problem in the unlikely
event that certain conditions (including hot, still weather and
a completely insulated vehicle) existed all at the same time.
As a precaution, never refuel your vehicles directly under a
transmission line. If you have no choice in the matter, use a
plastic gasoline container.

Wow that's some scary advice without giving any scientific data.