Wind Power Money Blinds Unsuspecting Homeowners


The people of Meredith, N.Y. welcomed the wind turbines to their struggling town. Thrilled to have sustainable wind power, they envisioned their town as embracing the future of energy.

The townspeople of Meredith became more and more alarmed, however, as the massive 400-foot high windmills brought noise, flashing lights and financial scams.

U.S. Wind development is growing at 39% annually. It has a history of corruption in Europe. It needs to be watched.

A new documentary by Laura Israel, Windfall, details how the town went from welcoming the wind turbines to brutal infighting between neighbors over those who had them (and the money) and those who merely suffered from the negative repercussions.

Director’s Statement

I have owned a small cabin on a dirt road in Meredith NY for over 20 years. I have to chop wood to stay warm, and there is no entertainment other than reading and looking at stars. It’s beautiful.

One day I noticed a small article in the local paper stating that birds would not be affected by the proposed wind turbine development in the area. No big announcement or headline, just a small mention.

I thought, wow it would be great to have a turbine on my property, so I started to do some research. I was completely taken aback by some of the information I found.

The first proposal in Meredith called for forty 400-foot tall turbines, sited 1,000 feet from people’s homes. These were not the friendly windmills I first pictured, nor would they be far off in the distance, like ones I’ve seen in the desert.

Mountains would have to be clear-cut, and turbines embedded in tons of concrete to keep them standing. Roads would be widened to accommodate the huge blades, which can be up to 180 feet long. I found out about the potential for problems in homes close to turbines, such as low frequency sound and shadow flicker when the sun gets behind the moving blades.

I started to question the scale of this type of development for the area, which is both rural and residential. I talked to others in the community, and found I was not alone in questioning the proposed development.

In fact, many neighbors had gone through the same transition I had — initial excitement about helping to save the world quickly changing into concern for protecting the health and wellbeing of residents and the future of their community.

I started to tell my friends back in New York City what I had found out about potential negative aspects of industrial wind energy. I was shouted at, called a NIMBY (not in my backyard) and a whiner.

I realized that if people won’t even question the status quo when it comes to this issue, then it really requires further scrutiny and in fact would be a great reason to make a film.

When I set out to make Windfall, I thought it would be a half hour long. Then we started filming town meetings, talking to the residents and became fascinated by the dynamic of the people In the town. Wind developers had signed agreements with landowners, but also made them sign confidentiality agreements, so the development was cloaked in secrecy.

This created an air of paranoia and apprehension among residents. The long standing Meredith town supervisor, trying to save the local dairy industry with a boost from wind energy money, came under attack by residents who felt he had a conflict of interest because he had been approached to sign a wind contract. He starts the film being a well-liked guy with “an easy job” who finds himself the focus of a controversy spinning out of control.

The issue divides the community and people who had been friends for thirty, forty years stopped speaking to each other. Neighbors who once helped each other out or planned picnics and charity dinners now would not be seen in the same place. Some residents stopped attending church for fear of reprisal from others. I have heard of places where this split has divided families.

We eventually took our cameras to visit residents of the Tug Hill region of NY, who had recently accepted a wind facility of nearly 200 turbines. We also visited two other towns near Meredith in Delaware County which had the political and financial muscle to ban wind turbines altogether.

I began to realize that Windfall needed to be a feature length film in order to properly convey the complexities of the issue. The subject of wind energy ends up becoming a backdrop for revealing how a community can become extremely divided over an issue, struggle to work through it and negotiate to move forward together despite their differences.

— Laura Israel (Director/Producer) Windfall

A NY Post article cited below details some of the corruption and blowback from the wind industry throughout the world. They mention Meredith as a prime example.

…Israel’s film also features a colorful interview with Carol Spinelli, a fiery real-estate agent in Bovina, a town of about 600 people located a few miles southeast of Meredith. Bovina passed a ban on wind turbines in March 2007. Spinelli helped lead the opposition, and she nails the controversy over wind by explaining that it’s about “big money, big companies, big politics.” And she angrily denounces wind-energy developers “as modern-day carpetbaggers.”

That’s a brutal assessment. But it accurately portrays the rural-urban divide on the wind-energy issue.

Lots of city-based voters love the concept of renewable energy…Read more: NY Post