BY DONNA ALLEN
– Quite a crowd gathered at the white Church in Grafton for the presentation of the New York Times Critic’s Pick documentary film “Windfall” by Laura Israel.
This 2010 film tells of the reaction of residents in rural Meredith, in upstate New York to a proposal to place numerous wind turbines in their community to harness wind power.
The film begins in 2004, when energy companies approached several property owners in Meredith, offering cash payments to allow the long-term placement of wind turbines standing over 400 feet tall on their land. “Wind power… it’s sustainable … it burns no fossil fuels…it produces no air pollution. What’s more, it cuts down dependency on foreign oil. That’s what the people of Meredith first thought when a wind developer looked to supplement the rural farm town’s failing economy with a their own – that of 40 industrial wind turbines,” says the film’s CD jacket.
The documentary portrays Meredith residents as deeply divided over the idea. Some believe the economic and energy benefits are worth investigating. Others are concerned about the towers being an eyesore, loss of property values, or posing a variety of hazards such as collapse, accumulation of ice, which is then flung from the turbines in large chunks, or health problems such as headaches, not being able to sleep, heart palpitations and pressure in the ear, attributed to low frequency noise. Residents of Lowville, New York are also interviewed, expressing regret at installing wind turbines in their community.
WINDFALL documents how this proposal divides Meredith’s residents as they fight over the future of their community. Attracted at first to the financial incentives that would seemingly boost their dying economy, a group of townspeople grow increasingly alarmed as they discover the impacts that the 400-foot high windmills slated for Meredith could bring to their community as well as the potential for financial scams.
After an often spiteful debate, the citizens vote out the current officials who were promoting wind energy, and were not agreeable to enacting a protective wind ordinance. The newly elected officials in Meredith then passed a citizen-friendly wind law, and the developer decided to leave the community.
“With wind development in the United States growing at 39%, WINDFALL is an eye-opener that should be required viewing for anyone concerned about the environment and the future of renewable energy,” continues the film’s CD jacket
This film was done by an interested local citizen, not some organization with an agenda. Israel did this film because she had a media degree from NYU, and this seemed like a compelling local activity that would have broader interest to citizens countrywide.
Israel is not an energy expert, and does not portray herself as one. She is merely a citizen who went to great lengths to have people on both sides of the story have their say. After being asked for an interview, the wind developer declined to be interviewed for the film. The documentary relates to what happens when citizens get more educated about the very technical issue of industrial wind energy. In essence, this is a story about the democratic process.
Grafton shares many of these questions and concerns. Get a copy of this film and watch it. You won’t be disappointed with the information whether for or against this project.