Prose & Comments: A vote for the substation

A transmission and distribution power substation would be a huge boost to our power infrastructure.

By tapping into the 69Kv underground cable, we will not only reduce black outs, but we would also avoid brownouts. That would mean our air conditioners, refrigerators and other appliances will operate more efficiently and not burn out because the voltage is too low for too long.

But a substation must be installed while protecting the health and safety of the public. The Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization provide different maximum permissible levels of electric and magnetic radiation. And there are doctors and scientist who believe that a fraction of those levels should be permissible. In other words, no one agrees on what is exactly safe.

But we should err on the side of safety. From what I have read, being within 200 feet of a high voltage above-ground power line could be unsafe. We could double that distance to better ensure the safety of those living near the substation. It should be understood that we are exposed to electric and magnetic radiation in our homes, while driving and at work. Every appliance, computer and light bulb radiates magnetic and electric lines of force.

Take a portable AM, (not FM), radio to an open space, away from power lines, homes and cars. Turn off your cell phone. Starting at 550 kHz, tune the radio to the quietest spot on the dial. If you hear crackle or static, that might be a distant lighting storm.

Now, don’t touch that dial. Go back to your home and place the radio near different appliances and electronics. If you hear a buzz, that is usually electric lines of force radiation. A “hum” is magnetic lines of force radiation. The loudness will indicate a degree of intensity. You will also hear buzz and hum as you cross under power lines. It really takes a calibrated laboratory instrument to properly measure this type of radiation.

Electric and magnetic radiation is both naturally occurring and man-made in our environment. We should be more concerned about the monthly radioactive discharges from the Millstone Nuclear Power Plant that is less than 20 miles from our shores.

A substation can be for both transmission and distribution of power. One natural resource that Shelter Island has is wind. We seem to have a constant 30 mph wind all winter long. Imagine a bird-friendly wind turbine farm, perhaps out of sight on the east side of Mashomack.

Just as Canada generates most of its cheap power via hydro electric, we could generate enough cheap wind and solar power back into the grid (because we would have a substation) and receive a credit for each and every homeowner here. We could reduce our collective carbon footprint to almost zero. We could cheaply heat and cool our homes with clean “green” electric. We could charge our electric cars and not need a $60 fill up at the gas station each week.

Who could be against this? Perhaps Big Oil, Big Nuke and people here who will not like the aesthetics of a bird friendly wind turbine farm. But what is uglier? A high electric bill? A higher heating oil bill? Burning oil and contributing to climate change? How about going to war every few years to protect our supply of oil from the Mideast?

A substation is not just about us right now. It is more about the next generation when renewable resources might be the only option. We need to have a substation and we can err on the side of public health and safety. Our Town Board must not take the easy way out by just saying “No”.

Should we have a substation? The next time you see a few leaves blowing across your yard, think of them as $20 and $50 dollar bills. Money may not grow on trees, but the answer is blowing in the wind.

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