Windfall Wind Power Film Blowing Hot Air?

A documentary film depicting the clash between utility-scale wind power development and small-town residents about 150 miles north of New York City is drawing a lot of rave reviews, but the wind industry is giving a big thumbs-down to “Windfall.” Laura Israel’s debut film isn’t exactly new—it premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2010—but recent screenings in New York and elsewhere and reviews from the likes of the New York Times, Salon and Roger Ebert are bringing it to wide attention for the first time.

The synopsis provided on the “Windfall” website says the film “looks at both sides of wind energy development when the residents of a rural upstate New York town consider going green.” In an interview, Israel said she was drawn to make the film by personal experience: She owns a cabin in Meredith, N.Y., and had begun hearing talk of the wind industry coming to the area. Before long, the issue had come to divide the town.

image via Windfall

“The film isn’t an expose about wind, it’s more like the experience of the town,” Israel told Cinema Blend. “People who live among turbines are trying to get the word out about problems they’re having, and I wanted to give voice to them.”

Nevertheless, reaction to the film—both positive and negative—suggests that most viewers are indeed seeing it as a powerful broadside against the fast-growing wind power industry. You can start to think about this as you watch the trailer below and read the rest of the story.

John Anderson in the Wall Street Journal called “Windfall” a “horror movie” that demonstrated that “not only do the energy and ecological benefits (of wind power) fall short of what they’re cracked up to be, the turbines themselves are an environmental disaster.”

And Ebert, after saying he had always thought wind power was good, found himself turned around 180 degrees by “Windfall.” “Assuming it can be trusted (and many of its claims seem self-evident), wind turbines are a blight upon the land and yet another device by which energy corporations and Wall Street, led by the always reliable Goldman Sachs, are picking the pockets of those who can least afford it,” he wrote.

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.