If you’re like me, you probably thought wind turbines offered one of the best possible solutions for our global energy crisis. Turns out they’re not the green panacea we’ve all been waiting for. In the tradition of past important social-issue docs (“Food, Inc,” etc), “Windfall,” which opens theatrically in New York on Friday, could make an important difference in how we think about sustainability issues.
The film observes the deeply divided residents of Meredith, New York — an Upstate farm community in decline — as they debate the pros and cons of allowing wind turbines on their land. Local proponents champion the promise of green energy and monetary compensation, while detractors question the efficiency of wind-generated energy and the drawbacks of living among 400-foot tall towers with gigantic rotating blades. What they discover, along with director Laura Israel in her notable debut, is the disturbing effects of the wind turbine’s low frequendy hum and their “flicker effect,” as the machines pass across the sun and cast immense shadows.
As Robert Bryce, author of “Power Hungry: The Myths of ‘Green’ Energy and the Real Fuels of the Future,” told me the “infrasound” issue is the most problematic for the wind industry. “They want to dismiss it out of hand, but the low frequency noise is very disturbing,” he explained. “I interviewed people all over, and they all complained with identical words and descriptions about the problems they were feeling from the noise.”
Here”s a link to a story I did on the film on the eve of its festival premiere for the WSJ.com. Be sure to check out the comments section to see the vociferous responses from wind-energy critics.