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NY Town's Battle Over Wind Power Makes it to the Big Screen

January 30, 2012

MEREDITH, N.Y. - President Obama got bipartisan applause during his State of the Union address when he called for an all-out clean-energy initiative. But a new film serves as a cautionary tale.

Like many of her neighbors in Meredith, a small town near Oneonta, filmmaker Laura Israel was thrilled to learn developers wanted to build 40 industrial wind turbines in and around the town. The more she and the townspeople learned about the possible harmful impact on health and safety as well as some questionable economics involved, however, the more the town became divided, neighbor against neighbor.

Israel filmed it all.

"There's huge siting issues when they're put close to homes - people's homes. And I think that the health and safety issues are really problematic."

Israel says turbine blades create constant low-frequency noise, can break and fly off, and cast "shadow flicker," all of which can impact humans, birds and animals.

"As wind turbines get closer to people's homes - they're building them closer and they're building them bigger - we're seeing people leave their homes, just abandon their homes, and not get any compensation, and just move away because they have to get away from them."

Israel took her camera to the Tug Hill area of the Adirondacks, where she found people affected by some 200 turbines dotting the landscape. From the film:

"The noise that these towers give off, the shadows that they give off. There are times, like, I'll lay in my bed and it sounds like the noise is in the walls. When there's a front coming in, they start turning faster, and when moisture gets into it the noise will compound."

While some might assume a film which casts wind energy in a negative light must have the backing of the big energy establishment or climate-change deniers, "Windfall" does not. Israel says she and many citizens of Meredith simply came to realize that wind power brings more questions than answers.

Major environmental groups which endorse wind power as a clean, viable alternative to non-renewable fuels emphasize the careful siting of wind farms and outreach to local communities.

"Windfall" opens Friday in New York City and will be available through Video On Demand. Details of screenings can be found at

Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - NY