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Cape Vincent community wind project low on fuel

The vitriolic dissension over a pair of proposed industrial wind farm projects has made the going tough for a group of residents looking to gain support for a community wind project.

The rancor has hurt the community project as participants in the industrial projects are focused on supporting them, while opponents of the industrial projects increasingly don’t want any wind power in the town at all.

“A few people who originally provided support and confidence in going forward with the project now are not,” said Loren W. Pruskowski, vice president of Sustainable Energy Development, which helps community wind projects. “We need new energy to support the project.”

It’s been hard to find many community members who support wind power, but prefer a community-based model. The company, which set up a meteorological test tower, needs local organizers to decide the location and size of the project – and whether it should go forward at all.

Hester M. Chase started the community power effort after seeing the charged atmosphere surrounding the industrial projects six years ago. She and others founded St. Lawrence River Public Power Association.

She reached out to Sustainable Energy Development because the company’s business model, as it has developed in Albany County, doesn’t use land leases.

At the behest of Ms. Chase and other association members, the nonprofit Black River–St. Lawrence Resource Conservation and Development Council applied for a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant to fund the feasibility project. The company invoices the council for its work, which the council pays directly.

But Mr. Pruskowski said a project’s development is very dependent on public participation. In Albany County, a community group has 10 to 12 active members, with six who work regularly on aspects of the development.

That group hasn’t coalesced in Cape Vincent yet. The members don’t necessarily have to be from Cape Vincent and a community project wouldn’t necessarily be based in the town, though staying relatively close to the meteorological tower is important for wind resource data.

“We’ll have the feasibility study no matter what,” Mr. Pruskowski said. “We can’t force it and we don’t want to force it.”

The association had a few community members involved in the project, but the meteorological tower was put on Ms. Chase’s family farm. There’s no compensation for that location.

“I always want to invite anyone interested to come and contact us – we’re always transparent and inclusive,” she said. “I do think we need to figure out a way to develop resources that respect the local environment and community.”