Archive for October, 2010

A Book About Noise

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

by Nick Miller

In early 2007, I received an invite to the Noise Pollution Clearing House 10th Anniversary celebration.  Well, ok, no marketing possibility there, but Les Blomberg has been nice enough to me to keep me apprised of his latest projects, and send interesting people my way; plus, I noted that the celebration was to be held in Bill Moyer’s New York apartment.  Sign me up.  A real New York experience!

Arriving there via Acela through Penn Station and a cab uptown, the doorman directed me to the elevator and the operator who took me to the Moyers’ apartment.  Les led me through two crowed rooms and introduced me to a gentleman named Garret Keizer.  Garret told me he was writing a book about noise, and started asking me questions about what I do, while scribbling notes on a little pad.  That meeting translated into many phone calls, many emails, a visit to HMMH to interview a half dozen of us who have been in the noise business for many years, and dinner at my house with me, my wife Andrea, Doug Barrett and Diana Duffy. Garret’s book came out last spring and late this summer, Noise Control Engineering published a review I had written of the book:

  • The Unwanted Sound of Everything we Want, A Book about Noise
  • Garret Keizer
  • Public Affairs, Perseus Books Group, New York, 400pp, 27.95 USD – Hardcover, ISBN 978-1586485528

Garret Keizer’s first sentence gave me confidence that I was starting a book that would not be a straight polemic about the evils of noise and the wonders of quiet: “Noise is not the most important problem in the world.”  And so it is not, but with Garret’s relentless research into history, countless interviews with the makers, receivers and analyzers of noise, and synthesis of all, noise provides a window on culture, politics, power and weakness.  He goes on that noise is a “weak” issue in that it affects the weak, and if you complain about it, you’re often considered weak – a “complainer” who can’t deal with the way the world works.  But, he warns, “…be wary of drawing pat moral analogies between noise and evil, quiet and good.”  Ted Bundy was a “quiet and helpful tenant.”

Well, that last is a bit extreme, perhaps, but Garret throws out zingers from time to time and made me think – a lot.  In considering America’s influence on other cultures, has it ever occurred to you that a “…culture attempting to imitate America rarely grows quieter?”  And every few pages, I found myself stopping to reflect on a linkage he’d just made.  But don’t pigeon-hole Garret; he admits he loves midtown Manhattan, his chain saw, and the Rolling Stones.

I suspect a lot of us are like Garret.  We love our appliances, but want to get away from them once in a while.  Which leads to a sad truth that he raises in many ways: the poor and disadvantaged of the modern (industrialized or industrializing) world can’t get away from the noise.  My wife and I lived briefly in a rather noisy suburban apartment complex, but we could get away on weekends to the pastoral quiet of York County, PA.  I can imagine there are many people living in tight quarters where the noise never stops, and there’s no going up the country for a quiet vacation.

Solar Power International Conference

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

by Phil DeVita

Steve Barrett and I just returned from the 2010 Solar Power International (SPI) Conference in Los Angeles.  This is the premier international solar conference where developers, manufacturers, investors, suppliers and installers gather to discuss all things solar.    HMMH attended the conference promoting our recent siting feasibility efforts at Palm Beach International Airport along with assisting FAA in developing the forthcoming “Technical Guidance for Evaluating Selected Solar Technologies at Airports”.  The guidance document will serve as the central reference for evaluating solar projects at airports and explores the potential benefits and costs of developing solar energy at these sites.

The conference was an international event with an estimated attendance of over 24,000 people, the highest attendance ever for SPI.   The industry is celebrating the rapid growth in the US solar market highlighting successes such as job growth, lower photovoltaic panel costs, state renewable energy mandates, and increased power installments.  Mr. Rhone Resch, President of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) highlighted some additional statistics including:

  • 93,000 solar jobs in the US;
  • projecting a 26% increase in 2011; and
  • US solar revenue growth of 37% last year

Even with these impressive statistics, there are some unknowns moving forward which could put a slight haze on the sunny outlook.  The industry is hoping for the renewal of the investment tax credit and would greatly benefit from a national renewable energy standard and carbon tax or cap and trade program. Unfortunately, with the current state of politics in Washington, some of these incentives may not be addressed for a while.  However, even with some of the challenges, the solar industry still looks very bright.  Mr. Resch sees continued strong growth in the coming years and has challenged the industry with an aggressive goal of 10 gigawatts of installation (commercial and residential) by 2015!

Other keynote speakers included Biz Stone, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, James Carville and Mary Matalin.  Some of the highlights are as follows:

Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter spoke about how the company was founded and his initial vision of Twitter as a social network to keep people informed and up to date.  He spoke about Twitter’s evolving role from social networking into the business marketing arena to its most recent uses in providing up to date information during catastrophic events such as the earthquake in Haiti and the Chilean miners’ crisis.  He spoke of how Twitter will continue to evolve beyond its current applications.  There is a lot of synergy between Twitter and the solar industry in that both are in their infancy and continuing to evolve and adapt to market demands.

Secretary Ken Salazar gave a presentation of the status of renewable energy projects on federal lands and the commitment of the Department of the Interior (DOI) towards renewable energy projects in the future.  He highlighted the first offshore lease agreement awarded to the Cape Wind project off the coast of Massachusetts along with DOI’s recent commitment to 2,000 renewable energy projects including solar, geothermal, wind and solar thermal projects on federal lands. He also signed the Record of Decision at the conference for the 60 MW Silver State North Solar Project in Nevada which is the first ever solar project approved on federal land.  The Secretary also spoke about the 24 solar energy zones which were identified by DOI as areas for future solar development.  The identification of the solar energy zones will provide an efficient process for permitting and siting responsible solar projects on federal land.  Secretary Salazar did highlight some obstacles that still remain such as transmission and siting new transmission lines on public land. He did indicate that the agency has removed some of the regulatory uncertainty since he came into office and feels the implementation of the Fast Track Process along with the solar energy zones should provide some regulatory certainty to developers.

The final day of the conference provided an entertaining exchange between Democrat James Carville and Republican Mary Matalin on their perspectives on the mid term election and the renewable energy market.  They do not agree too much on politics but they do agree that renewable energy, including solar makes good economic sense.  They both agreed the renewable energy market is very viable and could help the economy come out this recession by continuing to grow the market sector and provide jobs.

What I took away from the conference was that the solar market looks very bright and is one of the few market sectors expected to experience growth in the commercial and residential sector.  With all the gloomy statistics about the economy presented on television and in the newspapers, it was refreshing to be part of an energetic market sector with hope and optimism.

That’s about it from Los Angeles; see you next year in Dallas, TX.

Report from ACI-NA Annual Conference and Pre-conference Workshops

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010

by Mary Ellen Eagan

I’m still collecting my thoughts from nearly a week in Pittsburgh at ACI-NA’s 19th Annual Conference and Exhibit.  Here are the highlights:


I attended the GRI Workshop on Friday, September 24th (that would be the workshop that preceded the pre-conference seminar).  For those of you unfamiliar with the Global Reporting Initiative, it is an international framework for reporting on sustainability initiatives.  Four North American airports (Denver International, Portland International, San Diego International, and Toronto Pearson International) have participated over the last two years in the development of a Draft Airport Operator Sector Supplement (AOSS).  As the name implies, the AOSS is meant to provide additional airport-specific sustainability information that is not already provided through the G3 Sustainability Guidelines, which is the cornerstone of the GRI Sustainability Reporting Framework.  One obvious example is aircraft noise.  Here is a description of the proposed new performance indicator for airports to report on noise exposure:

  • 2.1 Identify the index most widely used in your country or at your airport to calculate the number and percentage change of people residing in areas affected by noise. Where no indicator exists, report using the Day Night Level (DNL), showing the number of people exposed to (55 and) 65 DNL. Where the metric covers a 24 hour period, information on noise during the night-time period can be expressed using a default Leq metric for an 8 hour period. The reporter must define the 8 hour period although flexibility is provided to set the start time to reflect cultural differences (for example, some reporters may regard night as being 22.00 to 06.00, while others may think 23.00 to 07.00 is more appropriate to local circumstances). 
  • 2.2 Specify the metric and the time period adopted and the thresholds applied for calculating exposure. To aid comparability between airports, the reporting threshold chosen should reflect the onset of significant annoyance.
  •  2.3 Report the number and percentage change of people residing in areas affected by noise. If metrics exist to calculate the number and percentage change of people residing in areas affected by noise for both day and night periods, please report information for both.

I’m still trying to interpret this recommendation, but my guess is that U.S. airports will be fine to simply report on the number of people exposed to DNL 65 dB and higher.  What’s not clear is whether airports should also report on the number of people exposed to DNL 55 dB and higher (not a common practice for most US airports).  This is an even more complicated question when you consider the statement that “the reporting threshold chosen should reflect the onset of significant annoyance” in the context of current ISO and other efforts to update the Schultz Curve.

Environmental Affairs Seminar

The Environmental Affairs Seminar was a two-day whirlwind of updates on a range of environmental issues facing airports:

Presentations from the seminar will be posted on the ACI-NA website shortly.

Then the conference began.

The annual conference is generally pretty light on substance (a good thing, after three days of intense meetings), but I did enjoy two sessions in particular:

Nick Bilton, Source: ACI-NA

Nick Bilton, Source: ACI-NA

  • Nick Bilton, lead technology writer for the New York Times Bits Blog gave an engaging keynote address on the use of technology and communication, with a particular emphasis on social networking.  I learned about foursquare, and though I don’t have enough of a social life to take advantage, I can see that it offers potential for airports.  He also showed an amazing video on instantaneous information flow, as illustrated by the death of Michael Jackson.
  • Deb Meehan of SH&E also gave an entertaining update on state of the airline industry.  She emphasized her belief that airline profits in the last 18 months have come at the expense of the traveling public – especially in terms of comfort – and that we should look for airlines to start competing on service.

 Looking forward to next year in San Diego!

In the News

Monday, October 4th, 2010

by Mary Ellen Eagan

Readers of a certain age (that’s a euphemism for “old, like me”) might remember a Saturday morning tv show called “In the News”.  It was not a show, really, but two-minute news clips targeted to us cartoon watchers; here’s an example on ozone.  That, combined with My Weekly Reader and Schoolhouse Rock, is how I got much of my information in those days, I fear.  I’m sure our parents thought they were as mind-numbing as we now find Y8 and other websites our kids love.  However, if it weren’t for I’m Just a Bill, I’d never have learned how laws are made (I’ve recently reviewed after 16 FAA authorizing extensions) AND then there’s Conjunction Junction.

Anyway, HMMH is “in the news” this week on a few projects:

  • Falmouth Municipal Turbine Noise:  HMMH is currently assisting the Town of Falmouth to evaluate the potential impacts of a second wind turbine at Wastewater Treatment Facility on Blacksmith Shop Road.  See story here, and a related post on the health effects of wind turbine sound by Chris Menge here.
  • Chris Menge has also been working with the folks at Canobie Lake Park in New Hamphire to evaluate the potential noise impacts of their proposed new Gerstlauer 320 Compact Euro-Fighter roller coaster.  See article here and other similar HMMH projects here.  Bottom line: new coasters are quieter than the old ones (except for the screams).
  • Finally, an interesting article on the future of tidal energy in Massachusetts, which focuses on the opportunity for Massachusetts to lead innovation in this area.  The article includes a long discussion with John Miller, our partner on the Edgartown Tidal Energy Project and Director of the Marine Renewable Energy Center at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and their work to develop a “National Renewable Energy Innovation Zone.”  The article also mentions Steve Barrett’s work on Nantucket. 

 I wonder if “In the News” was the start of our collective short attention span.