Originally released earlier this year, Laura Israel’s film follows a 2004 effort to build a wind project near the rural town of Meredith in upstate New York.
The film portrays the resentment of members of the community to the siting of the project and to the remuneration offered to them, as well as the reasons why other members of the community thought the project would be good for Meredith.
As the New York Times review observed, “Meredith is riven by the issue, which pits the Planning Board against the Town Board and neighbor against neighbor. Former city dwellers escaping urban anxieties are surprised to see themselves as activists.”
The Times also noted the film failed to offer perspective from political leaders above the fray or wind energy authorities but said, “the film’s implications are clear: The quest for energy independence comes with caveats.” Developers’ motives, the Times added, must be considered, whether they are wind developers, Gulf of Mexico oil developers, Fukushima nuclear plant developers, natural gas frackers or coal mining companies.
The film “has taken the wind out of my sails,” Roger Ebert’s review reported. “I learned that wind turbines are unimaginably larger than I thought.”
From watching the film, Ebert also learned all misinformation the anti-wind movement has to offer: Turbines make a noise, cast a shadow flicker, are “devastating” to property values, and “slice birds into pieces [and] cause the lungs of bats to explode.” The projects don’t pay off as promised and the turbines sometimes break down, Ebert learned.
The film, he wrote, “left me disheartened. I thought wind energy was something I could believe in. This film suggests it’s just another corporate flim-flam game. Of course, the documentary could be mistaken, and there are no doubt platoons of lawyers, lobbyists and publicists to say so. How many of them live on wind farms?”
Neither review showed much knowledge of wind energy or noted that today’s wind technology is about three generations more advanced, and much more friendly to people, birds and the environment than those proposed in the film, not to mention the fact that today’s project siting practices are far more accommodating to the kind of concerns Meredith’s citizens expressed.
After complimenting the film’s “HD cinematography and lingering landscape views of rural New York landscapes,” the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) pleaded with Ebert not to “fall for Windfall” and listed what it called the film’s “Greatest Hits of Misinformation,” including:
1. Wind farms get incentives, but so do fossil-fuel industries, and American taxpayers have paid well over $500 billion to fossil-fuel industries;
2. In a poll conducted in the same state where the film was made, four out of five residents of Lewis, County, N.Y. said the development of a local wind farm had a "positive effect" on the county, and 77 percent favored more wind;
3. Typically, it is possible to have a conversation at normal voice levels while standing at the foot of a turbine, and wind project siting guidelines and local agreements and ordinances should keep turbines at safe distances from homes and businesses;
4. Shadow flicker from spinning wind turbine blades lasts just a few minutes near sunrise and sunset in bright sun conditions and it can be suppressed with proper siting and landscaping; and
5. Multiple studies show that larger penetrations of wind and other renewables will lower electricity costs, even with the current low natural gas prices.
“A fascinating lesson in democracy,” is how Salon’s Andrew O’Hehir described the film. It showed, he found, that “the jig was up for the wind industry in this one tiny corner of America [but] nobody came out of this fight feeling good. A formerly harmonious community is now bitterly divided [and] the Mitt Romney-style venture capitalists of wind power will just move on to the next town and sell their pseudo-green poisoned chalice to somebody else.”
AWEA invited Ebert, and would surely invite O’Hehir, too, "to tour a wind farm within a two-hour drive of your home in Chicago, and to meet with wind workers for a roundtable discussion of how misinformation is impacting their lives and careers -- at which they will answer any questions you have. We can include neighbors of the project, and health experts, in this discussion as well."
In other words, take an objective look at wind. The film is below for anybody to judge whether it is that.