Windfall counters hot air

photo submitted

Yet another story I did for the North Shore News as part of its coverage of the Vancouver International Film Festival.

I saw this film over Thanksgiving weekend. Aesthetically, it’s one of the prettiest documentaries I’ve ever seen, and it argues effectively against the adage, “Green is good.” What I didn’t like is that no one from the corporation targeted in this film was actually interviewed.

I’m not sure why. They could simply have chosen not to and I have no idea how much effort the director went to to try and talk to them. But it felt a little empty not to hear from a very significant player in the film’s narrative.

Windfall counters all the hot air

 

by Jesse Ferreras, North Shore News

October 8, 2010

Green, for lack of a better word, is good. Green works… right?

Wherever we look we’re told that green energy is the future, our atonement for past sins against the climate. We have hope that we can build an economy out of energy sources like solar, wind and run-of-river energy, confident that we can do it without doing serious harm to the environment.

These sources may produce few emissions, but what’s often overlooked is the impacts they’ll have on the people that have to live with them. That’s precisely the subject of Windfall, a documentary screening as part of the Ecologies of Mind program at the 2010 Vancouver International Film Festival.

Director Laura Israel insists she’s an environmentalist. A filmmaker and editor for photographer Robert Frank, she believes in clean energy and is excited at the prospect of solar panels being installed atop her apartment building in New York City.

She also owns a log cabin in Meredith, New York, a remote agricultural community where she has to take a dirt road just to get to her place.

“There’s no TV, nothing to do but read and look at stars,” Israel says in an interview.

One day she read the local paper and saw little mentions of “wind turbines” and “wind energy” in its op-ed section. Airtricity, an alternative energy company based out of Ireland, was looking to install wind turbines in the countryside, a massive project that could help generate profits for a community whose agricultural profits were lagging.

Airtricity looked at installing 40,400-foot turbines in Meredith and locate them close to people’s homes so that they wouldn’t have to build miles of transmission lines to get the electricity to market.

Many in Meredith were initially on board with the project, but they soon found that there were few regulations to mitigate their impact on the people that lived there.

“There’s no federal regulations as far as siting these,” Israel says. “The town had to had to research all of this, what do they have to write as far as zoning goes and what are the things about wind turbines they might have to write into their zoning that would protect something that could happen to them.

“What they found out you find out in the film, which is a lot of things that people don’t think about when you think about a wind turbine.”

Once installed, the turbines impose themselves on the town like unwelcome guests at a dinner party. They emit a low-frequency sound, turning all day and night, producing noises akin to a passing car with a deep bass on its stereo system. Subjects in the film describe it variously as a “jet that never lands” or “sneakers in the dryer at night.”

The film will perhaps strike a chord with North Shore residents who themselves live in the shadow of a wind turbine that stands atop Grouse Mountain. Visible on clear days, the 65-metre turbine is expected to satisfy 25 per cent of the resort’s power needs.

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About jesseferreras

Sea to Sky-based journalist. Snowboarder, cyclist, cinephile, bon vivant.
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One Response to Windfall counters hot air

  1. Laura Israel says:

    Hello Jesse,
    I’m glad you made it to see WINDFALL on Thanksgiving. During the Q and A, we discussed why the wind companies were not represented in the film. WINDFALL follows the experiences and point of view of the community. The wind companies did not show up at the public town meetings to answer residents’ questions and concerns, and that is why they are not in the film – to illustrate that point. If they had shown up, they would have been in the film, it’s not as if I cut them out. At one point the town supervisor even asks, “Where are the wind companies? Why aren’t they here?”.
    Thanks again for watching the film and the review,
    Laura Israel

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