If you’re read any of my posts you’ll know I usually take an anti-right POV, but every now and then I’ll inject a little balance when I see something on the side I usually take that doesn’t seem quite right.
I just watched the documentary, Windfall, on Netflix and right from the beginning I felt there was something wrong with it. The documentary, with essentially no facts or expert analysis is strongly anti-wind, but mostly focuses on how the wind project tore apart a town. But just watching this (and I have no dog in this fight) right away it struck me that the anti’s were newcomers to the area with money they earned outside Meredith (like a rather young doctor who “retired” there with all his big city money) vs the locals who are struggling with shrinking economy. Naturally the locals, at least those shown in documentary are the larger land-owners and thus the ones that will receive the lease money. The newcomers, OTOH, won’t get any of the money, but at one point tried to set up regulations that landowners that had the windmills had to share their royalties with neighbors who don’t. So how much of this is merely a dispute about money? How much is it outsiders who find some bucolic but poor area so they can retire there and so aren’t really part of the community? Or is it just rapacious corporations, as represented in the documentary, ripping off a community and the taxpayer.
So Net searches didn’t show much. Given this is a “movie” all the normal sources of movie information are available, but there are few sources of factual information, especially on the particulars of this project. But the real sense I get of weakness in the charges is the lack of any substantial claims of harm the windmills pose. There is some very vague stuff in the documentary and then some obviously false exaggeration by the anti’s.
Windmills of exactly the type this movie is discussing are common around here and through geodashing I’ve seen a lot. One dashpoint was near the base of the windmill, in southwestern Minnesota and clearly a road (therefore, perhaps, access) connected county roads to the windmill. So we walked the road to score the dashpoint, but then went a little further to stand at the base of the windmill itself. It was awesome and you could “feel” it a bit and you could, just barely, hear it. Certainly there was no “gear noise” as alleged in the documentary and it didn’t feel like a disco with low bass thumping. In fact, if you couldn’t see it you might not know it was there. I’ve stood right at the tower on several windmills and never experienced any of the complaints.
The only two slightly bad things I’ve experienced was: a) a truck carrying a tower section cut a corner too close and got stuck in the mud, forcing me to drive 6 miles further to another exit (boo-hoo), and, b) the red blinking lights to ware aircraft can be a bit hypnotic while driving along I-80 at 2am after 20 hours of driving (probably not the worst hazard of what I was doing).
This report, while from a clearly biased source, certainly debunks the claims of the documentary, esp. the awful “shadow flicker” (something I’ve never seen in many encounters with windmills). And it also suggests that the revenue situation is different than claimed by the documentary. Now I said I have no dog in the fight but I know someone who does, an actual landowner in Oklahoma that is now receiving considerable revenue (not the pennies suggested by the film) from the windmill. This same person has received oil and gas royalty money as well and I’m familiar with the contracts on all this.
So here’s what I think. In most states there are laws governing the distribution of the royalties from oil and gas to all the surrounding landowners. After all while the well itself may be only on one property it is sucking up a resource that extends to under other properties. Precise determination of exactly where the oil comes from (under whose land) is hard, even impossible, so there are just formula for this part. So all landowners within the state-defined area receive revenue. The landowner with the well receives some extra money for the damages that creating the well caused, as well as some land lease money for access to the well (basically paying for the road).
But wind is different. Or at least now, or at least in Oklahoma. Only the landowner where the windmill sits gets any money. Apparently there are some setback rules, apparently locally determined (Meredith anti’s tried to use ridiculous setbacks to just impose a de facto ban, a typical tactic I’ve seen before and even when I agree with the goal I think this is a cheesey way to accomplish it (Palo Alto tried to block some development this way)). But it is certainly possible that I could have my house newer the windmill than the landowner does, yet only the landowner is getting any money. And I suspect that is what is beneath much of the dispute in Meredith, the larger landowners (also mostly the old-timers) are getting all the money, but the newcomers and small landowners see the windmills in what they thought would be some anti-technology paradise.
But it’s impossible from any information I can find to actually know what’s going on. I don’t particularly believe the documentary because it used certain propaganda tactics (like showing a fire in a windmill with the implication this is possible – probably only of the milking barns is more likely to burn than a windmill). And they definitely fibbed (or at least exaggerated) the shadow flicker and the noise issues. That makes it hard for me to trust the film, so in the absence of more data I’ll go with the notion that this is leftwing paranoia and general anti-development (meanwhile some of the anti’s have cows, which produce methane, a far worse greenhouse gas, so they can hardly claim “green” status, but they all look like leftover hippies with the implication of their oh-so-socially-conscious attitudes), but none seemed to be willing to spend for rooftop solar, so I guess they figured coal-fired or nuclear is just hunky-dory (lefty-greenies that don’t actually go off the gird can’t do the holier-than-thou when they’re using non-sustainable resources).
In short, I’ll judge this to be a hack job. Now most documentaries are, but I think in most cases the target is justified to be exposed and I think this is a stretch to be hostile to the wind generators.