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$66M to scrap turbines

Bay State ratepayers and taxpayers – already footing the $2 billion-plus bill to plant 130 Cape Wind turbines in Nantucket Sound – will have to cough up an additional $66 million to dismantle the structures when they eventually break down, newly revealed state filings show.

The controversial project, strongly back by Gov. Deval Patrick and inching ever closer to final government approval, will probably last only about 25 years before they need to be torn down.

“This is the granddaddy of all sweetheart deals, and now they’re adding insult to injury for Massachusetts ratepayers, who already pay among the highest electric costs in the country,” said Rick Gorka, spokesman for GOP gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker, who’s trying to unseat Patrick.

“No matter how Governor Patrick tries to spin this, the ratepayers and taxpayers of Massachusetts are on the hook for this $2 billion project and now could be stuck with the $66 million price tag to tear it down,” Gorka said.

Developer Cape Wind Associates estimates that final dismantling of the turbine relics will cost $66 million in today’s dollars in a filing with the state Department of Public Utilities newly made public. The figure is sure to rise due to inflation over the quarter-century life of the nation’s first off-shore wind farm.

Treasurer Tim Cahill, an independent candidate for governor, also blasted the growing price tag.

“It seems like every day more hidden costs come to light,” Cahill said in a statement. “Cape Wind and the costs associated with it will be a burden to the taxpayers of Massachusetts for years to come just like the Big Dig.”

Cape Wind has emerged as a major issue in this year’s hotly contested governor’s race, and Patrick’s camp hit back fast and hard yesterday.

“The governor strongly supports Cape Wind, both for the clean energy it will provide and the jobs and related industries that will be created by Massachusetts having the first offshore wind-farm in the nation,” Patrick’s campaign said in a statement.

“Charlie Baker and Tim Cahill oppose Cape Wind, and would jeopardize the progress we have made in creating new jobs and supporting clean-energy related businesses in Massachusetts.”

A Cape Wind spokesman insists the “decommissioning” expense will come out of the developer’s pockets.

“The federal government is going to require that Cape Wind pay the cost to decommission the project at the end of its useful life,” said spokesman Mark Rodgers.

But critics counter that Cape Wind’s revenues ultimately come from ratepayers and taxpayers putting money in the developer’s pocket through monthly electric bills and federal subsidies.

In the DPU filings, Cape Wind’s developer said the federal government will require more detailed decommissioning plans once the turbines are up and running.

Cape Wind also will have to “provide financial assurances” to the U.S. Minerals Management Service that it can pay for removing the turbines, according to the new filings.

“Decommissioning the project is largely the reverse of the installation process,” Cape Wind said. “Utilizing the same or similar types of cranes and vessels as during their construction, the blades, rotor, nacelles (engine covers) and tower would be sequentially disassembled and removed to port for recycling.”