Here’s a “Not in my backyard” documentary that doesn’t pull punches, doesn’t even attempt “fair and balanced.” Laura Israel’s “Windfall” is about wind-generated electricity and the gigantic monstrosities that assorted Big Energy concerns plant in corners of backroads America in an effort to earn tax incentives for creating “green energy.”
Set in Meredith, New York, the film follows the battles of locals to either acquire or prevent others from acquiring permits to allow energy companies to install wind farms on their property. The wind is free, the windmills aren’t that obstrusive, and we need to get off foreign oil or greenhouse gas burning coal. What’s the problem?
The first big shock is realizing that these windmills, installed in clusters once a company has earned variances that allow them, are some 400 feet high, from the base to the tip of the propeller. Then there’s the noise, a throbbing, low-frequency hum that is there, day or night, year round. the “strobing” effect the blades create with shadows and sunlight are enough to drive some people crazy.
No wonder these retirees, artists, part-time farmers and others get up in arms over what might happen to their bucolic corner of New York state. The battle pits the old-timers and farmers against the newer landed gentry, and Israel captures a fight that got testy, but never nasty.
She doesn’t trot out a single company spokesperson, doesn’t put facts and figures up on the screen about generating capacity, longevity, cost, or even an accurate measurement of the noise these things make. Thus, it’s a film memorable for a few images; a windmill that caught fire in Colorado, which no fire department on Earth is equipped to fight, a town lawyer who oversteps her authority to try and railroad the village into doing the energy company’s bidding, sad people recalling the neighbors they once regarded as friends.
“Windfall” is not the final word on the subject, but it does make fascinating viewing for anybody who naively sees these huge things as “the answer” to America’s energy problems.
Showtimes: April 9, 6:00 p.m. Enzian, April 13, 6 p.m. Regal Winter Park.
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