Windfall (2010 film)
Windfall is a 2010 documentary film directed by Laura Israel about the reaction of residents in rural Meredith, New York (in Delaware County, New York) to a proposal to place numerous wind turbines in their community to harness wind power. It's important to note that this film was done by an interested local citizen, not some organization with an agenda. Laura did this film because she had a media degree from NYU, and this seemed like an compelling local activity that would have broader interest to citizens countrywide.
Laura is not an energy expert, and does not portray herself as one. She is a citizen who went to great lengths to have people on both sides of the story have their say. (The wind developer was asked to be interviewed for the film, but they declined.) The narrative 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.
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. 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 attributed to low frequency noise. Residents of Lowville, New York are also interviewed, expressing regret at installing wind turbines in their community.
After an often rancorous debate, the citizens vote out the current officials who were promoting wind energy, and were not amenable to enacting a protective wind ordinance. The newly elected officials in Meredith subsequently passed a citizen-friendly wind law, and the developer decided to leave the community.
The film is composed mostly of interviews with Meredith residents. Also included are excerpts of news broadcasts, films of city council meetings, and computer-animated segments.
Roger Ebert gave the film 3 out of 4 stars, writing that the film "left me disheartened. I thought wind energy was something I could believe in. This film suggests it's just another corporate flim-flam game." He notes that there is doubtless a legion of wind-power activists and lobbyists who would counter-argue the points made in Windfall, but asks "How many of them live on wind farms?" In a review for the New York Times, Andy Webster writes that Israel's film tends to "overheat" but raises important questions: "The quest for energy independence comes with caveats. Developers’ motives must be weighed, as should the risks Americans are willing to take in their own backyard."
Wind energy advocate Mike Barnard reportedly disliked the film for what he alleges are many factual errors and biases, however the reference provided does not work.