Friday, August 09, 2013

"Windfall": a small town in upstate New York resists the wind turbine companies

A film I reviewed August 7 started out with homage to wind power as a boon to ranchers, but there is a little documentary called "Windfall" (2010) by Laura Israel, which shows that in more populated rural areas, as in the northeast, it can become a real problem for landowners.
The setting is Meredith, NY, in Delaware County, SW of the Catskills, maybe 40 miles from the NE corner of PA.  Windmill companies approach landowners and make them sign confidentiality agreements not to discuss potential income-generating income land leases with anyone (even privately, let alone on the Internet), so they can’t organize resistance or demand more money. Eventually, the townspeople overcome this barrier and get organized, although they have to deal with their own interpersonal squabbles and "conflicts of interest" first/ 
The film points out that some of the surrounding area did not even have electricity until just after WWII, and the area is well prepared with self-sufficient (probably armed) people who could survive a power grid failure (hint, a warning about a solar storm or even an EMP attack). 

Now, though, the wind turbines, once installed, cause real distractions: “shadow flicker” on sunny days is distracting to some people, and the turbines interfere with television reception and probably wireless Internet, although those problems could probably be managed by carefully placing all the turbines with respect to the positions of cell phone and broadcast towers.  The whish sound from the turbines is also disturbing in some homes.  In the film, the turbines (400 feet to the top of the tallest blade) seem close to some farm houses.  

It is common to see wind farms on the tops of ridges in the northeast, especially Pennylvania, and it’s necessary to dig about 30 feet into the ridge to place a cement floor – so this is “minor” mountaintop removal.  It’s a lot less destructive than strip mining for coal.

The film asks the question whether wind farming is superfluous, and whether the real strategy for clean energy should focus just on natural gas.

The official site (Cat Hollow Films) is here

The DVD and Instant play are available on Netflix. 

Picture: Mine, near Mt. Storm, W Va, 2010. 

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