TT-529 -- Wind turbine syndrome, ebiz news from Japan

* * * * * * * * * T E R R I E 'S T A K E * * * * * * *
A weekly roundup of news & information from Terrie Lloyd.
(http://www.terrie.com)

General Edition Sunday, August 09, 2009 Issue No. 529

+++ INDEX

- What's new
- News
- Candidate roundup/Vacancies
- Upcoming events
- Corrections/Feedback
- News credits

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+++ WHAT'S NEW

An article run by the Nikkei last week may well spell
trouble for the fledgling alternative energy industry --
and particularly for the wind power generation sector,
where most Alt energy investment has taken place in Japan.
Apparently residents in the town of Toyohashi, Aichi-ken,
have petitioned a wind turbine farm operator (Nikkei
doesn't mention who) to close down their plant in the
evening hours -- on the basis that low frequency noise
emanating from the wind farm is causing residents in the
area serious health problems.

According to the formal complaint, the residents have said
that in the 18 months since the plant went into operation,
those people living within 1-2km of the wind farm have
been suffering from a range of ailments including severe
headaches, dizziness, and buzzing in the ears. This is not
the first time such complaints have been made by people
living near wind farms, but it does appear to be the first time
that such complaints will be formally investigated by the
Environment Ministry.

This could become a serious issue, because Japan has become
increasingly committed to wind power, installing thousands
of wind farms around its coast line so as to reduce
national dependence on foreign hydrocarbon energy sources.
If it is found that low frequency sound is a genuine health
hazard, then future farms will probably be subject to more
restrictive legislation, which will at least require them
to be located further away from inhabited locations --
something hard to do in overpopulated Japan.

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[...Article continues]

Apparently Japan now has about 1,500 wind farms generating
around 1.86GW of electricity (FY2008). The installed base
is expanding at a rapid clip, up 1,300 percent in terms of
energy produced in the last 8 years, and production is likely
to grow another 20 percent (our estimate) next year. The largest
operator, with about 20 percent of the nation's capacity is Eurus,
which is a j/v between TEPCO and Toyota Tsusho -- two of
Japan's most powerful companies. As a result, wind will
probably continue to be the fastest growing alternative
energy source in Japan, certainly more so than solar,
hydro, and geothermal.

Perhaps the reason that the Environment Ministry is paying
attention is because last year a new illness, dubbed Wind
Turbine Syndrome (WTS), was identified by New York-based
pediatrician, Nina Pierpoint. Ms. Pierpoint studied the
health problems of ten families living close to wind farms
and concluded that the installations are probably causing
an outbreak of sleep disorders, accelerated heart disease,
panic attacks, headaches, learning problems by children,
and other stress-related disorders. She took her claims to
Congress, and testified in late summer last year, as to the
problem.

In Pierpoint's research, and indeed, from the complaints
that have been trickling in from all over Japan as well,
these ailments appear to manifest themselves within days
of a nearby wind farm going into operation and so are easy
for people to associate with the turbines. If the health
claims turn out to be true, then according to Pierpoint one
effective measure is to establish a minimum 2km buffer
around each wind installation, with possibly greater
distances if the farm has line of site, is upwind, or is
otherwise able to cause direct sound and sight disturbances
to residents.

There has been substantial research done into wind turbines
and health, and it seems that if there were any negative
health influences, they would be from possible low
frequency noise, not from visual or other effects. Research
shows that most large turbines do generate noise, some of
which is in the audible spectrum, but most of which occurs
in the 10Hz to 50Hz range -- well outside the range of
hearing.

However, Pierpoint says that while you may not be able to
directly hear the beating of the air by the turbine blades,
according to what she is seeing, people are still "feeling"
the turbine vibrations. She thinks that the low frequency
beats are resonating in the inner ear and disrupting the
hearer's sense of balance and spatial orientation. This is
leading to headaches and disorientation, and thus to the
less clearly defined symptoms of anxiety, nightmares, and
cognitive development problems in small kids.

As might be expected, noise experts have anticipated such
claims and in 2005 a U.K. expert published a vigorous
defense of wind turbines and the unlikeliness of their
causing health problems. He went on record as saying that
modern forward-facing turbine installations create very
little noise and that which is created is attenuated over
short distances. He is certain that no subsonic noise is
heard or felt by human beings.

Pierpoint's response to such statements is to point out that
while these experts may well be experts in sound, that does
not make them experts in human physiology, nor have they
investigated actual sufferers at actual sites. She has been
challenging the energy industry to err on the side of
caution and to at least implement the 2km buffer zone.

We think that her recommendations sound reasonable, and
with the tobacco debacle (i.e., industry claims that
tobacco is not proven to cause lung cancer) fresh in our
minds, there is no doubt that her claims need proper
investigation -- as we hope will happen when the
Environment Ministry gets involved.

Our hope is that rather than stop the further installation
of more wind farms, that adequate protective measures
are put in place to ensure nearby residents are not
impacted health-wise. If separation distance requirements
can't be achieved on land, and certainly it's not just the
sounds but also the sight of wind turbine farms that turns
people off, then perhaps over-the-horizon off-shore
installations are the way to go. The Japanese already
have good experience in creating artificial islands and
floating platforms, and so this would be reasonably easy
(although more expensive) for them to achieve.

Alternatively, they could start moving towards smaller, less
noisy installations. Much the way that personal solar cell
arrays are being promoted. In our minds, the government
should offer incentives for land owners to build their own
personal wind turbine installations, feeding power back to
the grid. In researching this short editorial, we came
across this very cool-looking vertical column wind turbine
that can be built along road sides and takes up very little
real estate. The thing about this product is that it produces
low noise, and thus might be one possible solution to the
problem.

http://www.mariahpower.com/windspire-overview.aspx.

*********************

It's amazing how fast the year has flashed by, and it's already
Obon again. So we're taking one of our 4 weeks a year off
next week and will be back on August 23rd. Enjoy the heat
of mid-summer, learn a few more Bon Odori dance steps, and
remember that the peaches and watermelons will be gone from
the supermarket shelves all too soon...

**************

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+++ NEWS

- Pension contributions decline
- Utilities to start purchase of consumers' solar power
- Less foreigners? Banks cut 12% in FY2008.
- M&A's down 32% in July
- Bad weather pushes up veg prices

-> Pension contributions decline

As if the Social Insurance Agency (SIA) isn't in enough
trouble already, the government is now saying that pension
contributions due from self-employed, part-time, and
jobless people have dropped to an all-time low. According
to the SIA, while 75.1% of people in their 50's paid their
contributions, only 49.4% of those in their 20's did so.
The government target is an overall 80% and the average for
FY2008 was just 63.9%. The SIA will be morphed into a new
pension entity in January next year. ***Ed: This weird
situation where people don't feel compelled to pay their
pension contributions is due to the continuing government
pretense that such contributions are not a tax, and are
therefore not compulsory. We don't see this situation
changing until the government gets real and in fact does
make kenko hoken, nenkin, and other parts of shakai hoken
part of the tax system. Of course, the problem then will
be that the public will start to realize that they are in
fact one of the highest taxed citizens on earth and may
start to complain about it...** (Source: TT
commentary from japantimes.co.jp, Aug 7, 2009)

http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/ed20090807a1.html

-> Utilities to start purchase of consumers' solar power

A Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry (METI) program
designed to subsidize home owner's costs of installing
solar power panels will kick off later this year. The plan
allows home owners to sell power back to grid power
operators at a fixed (high) price, thus allowing them
to off-set their solar investments -- a cost-recovery process
that takes about 10-15 years. The power companies will in
turn get their money back by passing on the higher costs
to general consumers. The power companies will pay
JPY48 per kw/hr for such solar-produced domestic power,
about double the current rate of power. (Source: TT
commentary from nikkei.co.jp, Aug 7, 2009)

http://www.nni.nikkei.co.jp/e/ac/tnks/Nni20090806D06JFA19.htm

-> Less foreigners? Banks cut 12% in FY2008.

If you're wondering whether there really are less foreigners
in Tokyo these days, this fact seems to be confirmed by
at least one sector -- banking. According to Bloomberg,
Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America,
Credit Suisse, Citigroup, BNP Paribas, Morgan Stanley, and
Deutsche Bank all cut their workforces by about 12%, or
almost 1,100 people last fiscal year. The cuts came in the
midst of the financial crisis, which saw the Topix sink
36%. (Source: TT commentary from bloomberg.com, Aug 7, 2009)

http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601087&sid=arZNB2zRfTng

-> M&A's down 32% in July

Japanese and Japan-related companies seem to be taking a
financial breather, suspending much of their M&A activity
during July. M&A advisory firm Recof says that there were
only 148 mergers and acquisitions in July, down 32.4% from
the same period a year ago. Overall, the number of M&A's
for the first half of this calendar year were down by
47.3%. Most of the drop has been in purely domestic M&As,
while overseas purchases by Japanese buyers only fell 8%
for July (to 31 deals) -- so there still seems to be a lot
of interest in foreign expansion, thanks to the higher yen.
(Source: TT commentary from nikkei.co.jp, Aug 5, 2009)

http://www.nni.nikkei.co.jp/e/ac/tnks/Nni20090804D04JSN07.htm

-> Bad weather pushes up veg prices

You may have noticed that the prices of fresh vegetables
have risen this last couple of weeks. Apparently the rain
and cloud associated with the rainy season and which should
have eased in mid-July, is still with us and thus is
stunting vegetable growth. The Japan Meteorological Agency
says that the cloud cover is due to the El Nino effect and
is likely to continue. ***Ed: Whether we like it or not, we
could all be eating China-grown veges over the next few
months...** (Source: TT commentary from examiner.com, Aug
2, 2009)

http://tinyurl.com/lfja39

NOTE: Broken links
Many online news sources remove their articles after just a
few days of posting them, thus breaking our links -- we
apologize for the inconvenience.

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+++ CORRECTIONS/FEEDBACK

In this section we run comments and corrections submitted
by readers. We encourage you to spot our mistakes and
amplify our points, by email, to editors@terrie.com.

=> In TT528 we discussed the probable reasons for declining
tourism numbers to Japan, and included in this the comment
about financial turmoil in the anglo-saxon currencies. This
stimulated a sprightly response from a reader...

*** Reader Comment: What, pray tell, is an 'Anglo Saxon'
currency? Do you mean the UK? A multi ethnic and
multicultural society these days? Do you mean your adopted
Australia? A multi ethnic and multicultural society in
recent years (not discounting the native aborigines). Do
you mean your native New Zealand? What about the Maori? The
United States? Would Barack Obama agree? Canada? hmmm....
Are you then excluding the Scandinavian countries... having
their own currencies still.... ? What about the Euro zone?
The French (certainly!!), the Germans (of course), the
Spanish, Italians, Greeks, etc. etc. I know you to be an
intelligent and perceptive writer, but really! Can't you do
better than 'Anglo Saxon currency'? I am sure that the many
racial and ethnic groups represented here must be gulping
over that term.

*** Our response: Thanks for pointing this out.

By this term, we meant all those Western countries, led by
the U.S. and U.K. (hence "anglo-saxon") who have bought in
to the Keynesian idea that they should dilute out their
currencies at the same rate as each other -- as part of a
coordinated action to reduce the impact of the
dollar-printing regime the U.S. is currently running.

While this may not be a familiar term, we've seen it used
several times in the financial press per the following...

http://wapedia.mobi/en/Anglo-Saxon_economy

So this was not intended to be a race-oriented term but
rather, a values-driven one. Perhaps using the word
"economy" instead of currency would have made the meaning
clearer.

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