By Dan Hust
PARKSVILLE Albert Bitjeman’s mountain offers spectacular views up to 80 miles in three directions.
“You can see four states from here,” he mentions as his Rottweiler, Maybelline, happily dashes around the field at the summit.
The sights alone make this a valuable 125 acres, but these days, it’s being eyed more for its wind.
Sullivan Alliance for Sustainable Development (SASD) and Sustainable Energy Developments (SED) are utilizing a federal grant to intensively study Bitjeman’s and neighbors’ properties for the feasibility of siting a community-supported wind farm along the southeastern ridge.
Located next to Route 17 between Liberty and Parksville, the 2,100-foot hilltop is part of a ridge separating Sullivan County’s foothills from the true Catskill Mountains.
The resulting dropoff is dramatic and affords commanding views into Pennsylvania, New Jersey, even Connecticut along with Bitjeman’s nearby home and his restaurant, Albert’s Liberty House.
SASD and SED have already determined it’s one of the windiest, most accessible, and most buildable sites in the county, and they hope their study, when completed later this year, will induce someone preferably a community group to erect at least two 2-megawatt windmills there.
Bitjeman, for one, hopes to see it happen.
“At this point, I would be 110 percent for it,” he acknowledged. “Every time those blades turn, every one of those turns is one less drilling rig out in the ocean failing, one less fracking operation pumping chemicals into the earth, one less coal car, one less nuclear power plant.”
He acknowledges the probability he’ll reap a profit from any lease of his land, but Bitjeman said the old farmland (yes, they actually tried to farm this mountainside) might as well see some productive use.
“There was a time I wanted to build a house up here, but not anymore because of the wind,” he explained.
Then again, the study may indicate there’s not enough wind to make the project practical. Even if it does, there are many hurdles left to overcome especially in financing and public concerns over potential aesthetic and wildlife impacts of the 250-300-foot-tall windmills.
Liberty Town Supervisor Charlie Barbuti in whose town Bitjeman’s property sits likes the idea but admitted he’s been hard-pressed to find much of any info on similar completed projects in New York State.
“What I’ve heard is if wind [industry] was going to be here, it’d be here,” he remarked. “... I am a fan of trying to do something with wind, but it requires more than a quick look.
“The earth doesn’t give up its resources easily. It’s a costly process.”
So for now, he said, the town board is officially neutral but intrigued, especially about the possibility the municipality itself could derive revenue from its operation.
“That idea really appeals to me,” said Barbuti, who is advocating for amending the town’s zoning rules to cover large-scale wind projects.
He also likes the idea of locally participating in the production of the energy people use every day.
Bitjeman shares that thought and likens the wind farm to another project once considered ambitious, even outlandish.
“It’s no different than when Alan Gerry [founder of Cablevision] strung cable up to an antenna on Revonah Hill,” he said.