Friday, November 05, 2010

Director Laura Israel and cartoonist Lynda Barry talk about the controversy over wind turbines. Israel directed “Windfall,” a revealing look at wind energy that tells the story of residents of Meredith, NY, who are divided when companies want to build wind turbines in the traditional dairy farm community. “Windfall” is playing as part of DOC NYC Friday, November 5, and Monday, November 8, at IFC Center. Lynda Barry is researching a book on homes near turbines. Her latest book is titled Picture This.


Lynda Barry and Laura Israel

Comments [24]

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Mar. 02 2011 03:11 PM

Currently Vermont's magnificent Green Mountain ridge lines are being targeted for a number of Industrial Wind Turbine Complexes by large out of state corporations, includung one from Spain. These corporations will recive OUR tax dollars in the form of incentives from our Federal Gov't
The permitting processes are underway and making progress.
Wind power is NOT GREEN nor it it cost effective.
Their construction and operation will decimate Vermont's pristine ridgelines, destroying animal habitat, killing birds and bats. The will cause serious health problems among those who live or work within 2 plus miles of the turbines (depending on the topography). The turbines generate noise, low frequency infra sound, shadow flicker, strobing. They have flashing red lights at night, are subject to ice throw and the occasional blade throw. The single blade will be 120+ ft long. The turbines" 420ft-500 ft tall. Note: a football field is 300 ft long. The statue of Liberty is 305' 1" tall.
SOLAR ORCHARDS are low impact GREEN producers of energy. The solar resource is far far larger in VT than... WIND, whose "efficiency" is a total scam.

Feb. 28 2011 07:07 PM
Arline L. Bronzaft, Ph.D. from Manhattan, New York

I spoke at the first international symposium on the health effects of wind turbine energy in Picton, Ontario two weeks ago. I was asked to speak because of my research and writings on the adverse effects of noise on children. I was very impressed by the information provided at the symposium. Last week I saw Windfall which similarly addressed the health impacts of wind turbines on nearby residents. Before we move further in employing this apparently attractive alternative energy source, we must research the potential harm of wind turbines. We cannot simply state that turbines have "no effects on nearby residents," especially when reports to the contrary are growing. Additionally, I would like to alert New Yorkers that there is legislation in the City Council that will encourage placing wind turbines on the roofs of buildings in our city. Here we should similarly demand that the requisite research be done to determine potential harm from noise, especially low frequency sound. There is sufficient research linking noise to adverse health effects and diminished quality of life and these findings should serve as a warning that we need to do research on this "new" source of noise.

Nov. 11 2010 04:43 PM
Karen at Hidden Creek from Kincardine, On, Canada

The comment from the energy expert in North Carolina is interesting. As a physicist and energy expert he is calling upon us who have studied actual wind energy produced by turbines to study and learn! Perhaps he would like to study real readings produced by IESO to compare energy produced by wind turbibes compared to nuclear reactor. As a physist he must know how to do that.

The fact is that, just as a for instance, a small nuclear reactor, say the B&W, can be built for as little as $5000/Mw, has a 60 year life date, runs on recycled fuel, stores its own energy, can be factory built and transported to site. One wind turbine (if the wind blows) can produce 1.5 MW and costs about $2,000,000 with a life date (we are told) of 15-20 years. Actually experience has shortened that to as low as 7, but let's be generour and say 15 years. Do the math. It does not compute.
Check out the B&W website. Check out William Tucker's website. He is a professional, I am not. But, I have checked out IESO comparisons and when we are busily using electric power, wind does not blow. It is the nature of wind.

I appreciate the comments from Manhatten. My mother decided she could not longer stand the never ending noise -- traffic, police sirens and ambulances constantly wailing. It never stopped.

There are us now, that listen to crickets chirping and birds calling and coyotes yippig and sometimes nothing, not even the wind. When harvest brings tractors and combines roaring, we know it is for a good reason and we know it will stop so we can sleep.

The price we pay for uncluttered vistas and knowing our neighbors are considerate and helpful -- our peace and quiet is of our own choosing. The price is doing without restaurants around the corner, first rate theatres, seasons opera tickets, big malls, handy football, baseball, basketball, all the city has to offer without an expensive long commute. This is our choice.


The rusting hulks and shattered lives will one day tell the tale.

Nov. 10 2010 09:51 PM
Canuck Mom from Canada

This reminds me of the old saying, "the road to hell is paved with good intentions."

As an ardent environmentalist, I am saddened to know that the wind isn't "free energy." It really did seem too good to be true for a while there.

Like the guests on this segment, it seemed like a great idea until I actually spent time near them and realized that they're essentially massive industrial installations in rural and wilderness areas.

And readily available data (try for Ontario's data, for one) from utilities themselves demonstrate that they put out a fraction of the advertised power. I didn't know they actually consumed power too -- I wonder if the power consumption cancels out the power generation -- wouldn't that be ironic.

Nov. 09 2010 08:27 PM
Charles from Michigan

The large wind industry runs on greed and hubris. How can it still be politically correct to be blindly ambivalent about this industry just because is calls itself green. I'll bet these huge machines will be obsolete in a few years because there is much smarter and wiser technology coming that will actually reduce out dependency on coal. The rusting hulks will stand as a tribute to stupidity and greed.

Believe it or not, the industry even has its eyes on the Great Lakes, smack dab in the middle of the Mississippi Flyway and arguably the most significant fresh water resource in the world. The industry wants to turn the Big Lakes into industrial zones! Sadly, they are hoodwinking the state legislatures with false arguments, empty promises, and propaganda. The industry has a lot of money and it is difficult to fight them. But protecting these lakes is our national mandate. It is time to draw a line in the sand.

Nov. 08 2010 05:59 PM
SAVEMontague from Montague Michigan

Thanks for the program, Leonard. You are among the first, if not the first, at NPR, to begin to reveal the dirty little secrets about large-scale, industrial wind. The size of turbines is growing. The adverse health impacts are mounting. The First International Symposium on the Global Wind Industry and Adverse Health Effects took place in Picton, Ontario last weekend. Toronto radio interviewed the speakers from the event. Leonard, could you please follow up this interview with a sequence of interviews including the main speakers from the picton event: Nina Pierpont, MD, PhD, Michael A. Nissenbaum, MD, John Harrison, PhD, Alec Salt, PhD, Carl Phillips, PhD, Ross McKitrick, PhD, Arline Bronzaft, PhD. There is mounting evidence of adverse health effects of industrial wind turbines. Industrial wind zones are not green and they don't replace or displace baseload electricity generation plants, such as coal, because they are intermittent and unreliable. Wind "farms" are killing threatened and endangered species of birds and bats. They do not result in a reduction of C02 emissions. They appear to be a major corporate welfare scam. Please continue to look into the political economy of wind energy, the physics of wind energy and the medicine regarding its adverse health impacts. Thank you!

Nov. 08 2010 02:07 PM
Roy Zornow from East Village

I don't understand the filmaker's logic that because wind industry representatives did not attend community meetings she would not feature them in her film. To me it would be more of a reason show their point-of-view, since it hasn't been heard. It makes her appear to be less credible.

Nov. 08 2010 12:44 PM

Peter from NYC - people living in a rural area don't expect noise like you would hear in NYC. And, yes Europe has more wind turbines, but yes there are protests concerning the building of more. In Denmark they are being built offshore because of the noise issues.

MD4U Canada couldn't agree more!
This industry (wind power) has been allowed to build before having to prove they actually "work", don't harm the environment, don't harm people. Counties are so hungry, for taxes they believe anything the wind company tells them. Never mind when you try to find out how many "actual" jobs there are... is that travelling maintenance guy counted as an employee for each wind farm.
This all reminds me of the childs book "The emperor's new clothes".

Nov. 08 2010 10:22 AM
Citizen Power Alliance from Silver Lake, NY

I live in Wyoming County in the beautiful, rolling hills of Western New York. We have been under attack here for nearly 10 years now by greedy Big Wind LLC's anxious to cash in on the corporate welfare of lucrative state & federal incentives and subsidies that enable this Enronesque industry to exist. The complete division of towns, friends, and even families over this issue has been devastating in our area, and across NYS.

The fundamental problem with the wind industry is that it doesn't really do what it claims. It won't reduce air pollution, or our dependence on fossil fuels. Industrial wind is NOT environmentally, economically, nor scientifically sound energy policy. It does NOT supply reliable, dispatchable, baseload power, and as President Obama admitted, will cause electricity rates to "necessarily skyrocket."

Simply put, industrial wind is a corporate welfare scam - the likes of which would make Bernie Madoff blush - and you don't have to look very hard to uncover those truths for yourself.

While you can go to jail for destroying an eagle's egg, Big Wind is getting a free pass on bird & bat deaths. More birds are killed every year at the Altamont Pass wind farm in CA than were killed in the gulf oil spill.

Donald Fry, American Bird Conservancy, testified on 5/1/07 to the U.S. House Fisheries, Wildlife, and Oceans Subcommittee: "The wind energy industry has been constructing and operating wind projects for almost 25 years with little state and federal oversight. They have rejected as either too costly, or unproven, techniques recommended by the National Wind Coordinating Committee to reduce bird deaths. The wind industry ignores the expertise of state energy staff and the knowledgeable advice of Fish & Wildlife Service employees on ways to reduce or avoid bird and wildlife impacts ... The mortality at wind farms is significant, because many of the species most impacted are already in decline."

* Dr. Thomas Kunz, Director of the Center for Ecology & Conservation Biology at Boston University stated, "The cumulative impacts on bat populations from proposed and/or constructed wind farm developments, especially in the eastern U.S., may lead to further population declines, placing multiple bat populations at serious risk of extinction."

Suggested further reading:

- Wind Energy: The Truth Blows

- The Wind Farm Scam, by Dr. John Etherington

- Power Hungry and Real Fuels of the Future,
by Robert Bryce

- The Crosses of Aiolos - A Tale of Wind & Wallets, by Keith Milligan ()

- Overblown, by Jon Boone

- Colorado/Texas Bentek Study at

Nov. 07 2010 10:04 PM
wind warrior from maine

for ten years i have watched wind developers come into small poor rural towns and promise them cheaper electricity, offer to fix the steeple on the church, or refurbish the town hall, or whatever else might be desperately needed.....and, they negate the health hazards of these monstrosities....and people believe them, only to find out, too late, that they have been lied to.....but hey, don't believe me.....why don't you check out the 18 lawsuits against the developer in mars hill, maine......why don't you talk to the people of vinalhaven, maine, who were all for their project, and live close to the turbines, only to find out they have been hoodwinked.....unless you do that, your comments are naive

ps ~ for all of you who think this will stop the use of fossil fuels, you should do some basic research......not one fossil fuel plant has been shut down anywhere in the world due to wind farms

Nov. 07 2010 05:22 PM
Fed Up from Ohio

Amazing how those who know so little are so quick to opine. Wind turbines require significant amounts of rare earth elements, 97% of which are produced in China. There is nothing about wind energy which would lead to energy independence. Their enviromental footprint is enormous. The wind industry continues to deal in stealth - not approaching communities in open and honest ways. In New York the developers were forced by the Atty General to record land leases as a best practice. Outside of New York they do not - leaving unsuspecting homebuyers in the dark. G.E. has advisories about siting to avoid problems from extreme wind and icing conditions. They are ignored by state and local siting boards. The industry is reprehensible. As for nuclear, commenters should school themselves on new nuclear technology and design.

Nov. 07 2010 04:06 PM
EnergyExpert from Northe Carolina

As a physicist (energy expert) and 30 year environmental advocate, it is distrubing how many readers here have been drinking the kool-aide.

Wind energy is an extremely expensive, very low benefit source of electricity.

Educate yourself by carefully looking at EnergyPresentation.Info.

Nov. 07 2010 03:51 PM
Lisa Linowes from New Hampshire

matt from manhattan: Would you kindly define "if installed properly" vis-a-vis reduction in bird/bat mortality. Are any such projects "installed properly"? Considering the fact that very few wind facilities have undergone pre- and post- construction studies and considering the fact that at those sites that did, the work was largely designed and implemented by individuals vested in the outcome of the studies, your claim that "people need to stop saying there are bird and bat issues" is not supportable. Would you be willing to reveal who paid for your services and what projects you worked on so others might judge your claims?

Nov. 07 2010 03:18 PM
MD4U from Canada

The problem is that "GREEN" energy is not always correctly labelled and understood. The CO2 frenzy is triggering very reactive, panic driven, poor policy decisions in the governance. Since wind energy is reliant on the variance of wind being present, a backup system is required. That back up system is usually natural gas powered steam turbine power plants to maintain consistent power. So lets think about it,,, to reduce CO2 producing electrical utilities, you are building Wind Turbines which in turn are supported by CO2 producing natural gas driven steam turbine electrical power plants for when the wind does not BLOW. These Natural Gas plants boil water 24 hours a day 7 days a week to keep the water boiling to make steam, to make electricity, just in case. In a nut shell, large industrial wind turbine power is expensive, intrusive, unreliable, with NO net benefit to reduce CO2. In Europe, governments there are starting to see the error in their way. Britain just completed a study of their wind turbine assets, showing the output is only 17% efficient. Britain is now wondering why have they destroyed their beautiful countryside with little to no CO2 offset. The Spanish have concluded that for every wind job they created through subsidies, they lost 2.2 jobs. Germany is building 25 more coal fired stations because wind is proving to be unreliable. The only thing green about wind power is the green you pay for increased electricity and increased taxes for subsidies your government is paying the Wind companies . Visit and get educated.

Nov. 07 2010 02:29 PM
Gene Geer from Hazlet

Good, informative program. More and more evidence from people living close to wind turbines shows medical problems arising from the persistant low frequency sounds and the resultant loss of sleep. Properties close to the machines (a few thousand feet or less) become almost impossible to sell. The wind proponents use deceptive, industry-generated reports to make misleading claims, and towns become split between those that are suffering and those who think (usually erroneously) that they are getting benefits from the machines.

Nov. 06 2010 01:50 PM
Peter Frishauf from NYC

Sorry, but the anti-wind turbine people on the show do seem like hysterics. There are wind turbines all over Europe, on farmland and islands like Bornholm in Denmark and Sweden, and no one seems to be freaking out, suffering from flaming out wind turbines setting fire to their homes, hypertension, etc. These are countries w far more aggressive public heath surveillance and sensitivity than the US. That your guest was not even asked about this -- and that no informed expert with experience with wind turbine safety experience was invited resulted in a very biased view and a journalistic disservice. We expect better from you Leonard.

Nov. 05 2010 01:25 PM
Hugh Sansom

I find the claims about lightning wildly implausible. Of course, something as tall will draw lightning strikes _when_ there is an electrical storm in the area.

The sound issue is more interesting. Low frequency noise can (1) travel a considerable distance and (2) can penetrate more deeply than high frequency.

Of course, people in New York City are exposed to unhealthful levels of noise 24 hours per day, all year long.

Nov. 05 2010 01:22 PM
matt from manhattan

41 bats a year!!! That is nothing

Nov. 05 2010 01:21 PM
Andrea Claire

There is a similar problem in the town on Marfa Texas where a company called Terserra is trying to install a HUGE field of "sun catchers" right next to peoples land because its near a sub-station and therefore cheaper for them. This will destroy the delicate desert ecosystem and create the same if now more low level noise. The issues with the town are the same...

Nov. 05 2010 01:21 PM
Amy from Manhattan

Is there a better way to generate wind power, or are the guests against its use in any way? I've read, for example, that the speed of the blades can be adjusted to make them less dangerous to birds; the guests mentioned the risk of fire, but couldn't they be designed to be fireproof, or at least fire-resistant?

Nov. 05 2010 01:20 PM
samir from jersey city

Your guests are terribly mistaken. I'm not a wind advocate by any means, but major transmission lines are typically not near homes, wildlife migration routes are not typically well correlated with high quality resources, and wind energy *does* displace the need for coal and gas power plants *despit* the fact that its output is variable. Further, the size of a project is public information - only royalties are covered by NDA's. Wind has its challenges and propoer siting is key, but your guests are misinformed about the truth about these systems and how they are integrated onto the grid. Like I said, I'm not pro-wind or prepresent the industry in any way, but this discussion should be an informed one.

Nov. 05 2010 01:18 PM
matt from manhattan

I will speak only regarding bats and birds. I am a biologist and I work with wind turbines and all the research has shown that if installed properly the amount of birds and bats are negilable. Single digit numbers per year. More birds die hitting buildings. The research is overwhelmingly supposting this and people need to stop saying there are bird and bat issues

Nov. 05 2010 01:12 PM

Solar photovoltaic doesn't strobe or cause noise - but still generates renewable energy. That's why we design urban PV installations - let's keep the wind offshore (Google thinks that's a good idea)...

Nov. 05 2010 01:10 PM

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