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Cape Wind foes net flood of donations

Cape Wind’s main opposition group said contributions to its cause surged by 22 percent last year as its donor base broadened amid rising concerns about the offshore energy project’s cost.

The Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound raised $1.8 million in 2010, up from $1.4 million in 2009, according to the nonprofit’s federal tax return. Emboldened by a recent court victory and rejection of U.S. loan backing for the 130-turbine project, the group said it’s on track for another fundraising gain in 2011.

“We’re definitely seeing a resurgence of support. We’re definitely on the upswing,” said Audra Parker, the Alliance’s CEO. “The better people feel about our momentum, the better our fundraising will do.”

The Hyannis-based group is trying to keep up with skyrocketing legal bills – $1.3 million last year compared to $500,000 in 2009 – through a series of direct mailings to its 5,000-strong donor base and summertime cocktail receptions catering to deep-pocketed supporters on the Cape and Islands. Money has also flowed in via Facebook and Twitter.

“The legal expenses have been huge,” said Parker, a Barnstable resident who joined the group in 2003 and became CEO in 2009. “We’ve shifted phases from more of a regulatory process to court cases.”

The Alliance’s donations fell by half in 2009 to the lowest level since the group started in 2002. But the cash comeback started after details about Cape Wind’s cost to ratepayers – an estimated $2.7 billion over 15 years – emerged when state utility regulators approved the project in November 2010.

“That really changed the playing field, where it was once a Cape and Islands issue … and now it’s become really a statewide issue,” Parker said. “We definitely have more donations coming in … from off-Cape and from individuals who are very upset about the high cost of power.”