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Smart Meter Fires

Add another item to the list of worries slowing the smart grid rollout

2 min read
Smart Meter Fires

We are seeing a spate of report from around the United States—and indeed around the world—of fires believed to have been caused by smart meters that were faulty, incorrectly installed, or connected to circuits where there were unfortunate and unforeseen effects. This appears to be not just a matter of freak incidents that may or may not have taken place here or there. In a compilation made by the EMF Safety Network, which specializes in EMF and RF precaution, there are at least a couple of dozen smart meter fire reports from Australia to Canada and virtually all regions of the United States, and some of those reports concern a couple of dozen fire incidents. In some cases fires appear to have originated in the meters themselves, in other cases in appliances like microwave ovens or refrigerators (as in the photo above), because of power surges.

To be sure, those reports are not necessarily going undisputed by local utilities and energy companies. In one instance, for example, California's PG&E and fire officials have taken issue with an initial report of meter induced fires in Santa Rosa; a short circuit in the distribution system blew out a number of meters, both conventional and two-way, the local fire chief said. On the other hand, just last week Commonwealth Edison of Illinois confirmed three smart meter fires in its operating area, and earlier last month its sibling company Peco Energy suspended smart meter installations in the Mid-Atlantic states after 15 reports of smart meter fires, one in Philadelphia.

Britain's Electrical Safety Council considers meters generally a fire hazard, as cables or fuses deteriorate with time, and it has warned electricity users against storing flammable items like rags or paper near electrical intake equipment.

Obviously all companies with smart meter programs, and all their suppliers and sub-contractors, are going to have to take a close look at the issue of fire hazards. This is just the beginning of a difficult story. Companies installing smart meters already have run into a lot of consumer push-back because of concerns about privacy, security, and--sometimes--higher rather lower electricity costs. The last thing the smart grid needs is meters causing fires.

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Practical Power Beaming Gets Real

A century later, Nikola Tesla’s dream comes true

8 min read
This nighttime outdoor image, with city lights in the background, shows a narrow beam of light shining on a circular receiver that is positioned on the top of a pole.

A power-beaming system developed by PowerLight Technologies conveyed hundreds of watts of power during a 2019 demonstration at the Port of Seattle.

PowerLight Technologies

Wires have a lot going for them when it comes to moving electric power around, but they have their drawbacks too. Who, after all, hasn’t tired of having to plug in and unplug their phone and other rechargeable gizmos? It’s a nuisance.

Wires also challenge electric utilities: These companies must take pains to boost the voltage they apply to their transmission cables to very high values to avoid dissipating most of the power along the way. And when it comes to powering public transportation, including electric trains and trams, wires need to be used in tandem with rolling or sliding contacts, which are troublesome to maintain, can spark, and in some settings will generate problematic contaminants.

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