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HYANNIS – The pro-Cape Wind group Clean Power Now has announced it is shutting down at the end of the year.
The decision, announced in an email to the group’s members and on its website Thursday, was prompted by a drop-off in funding because of the economic slowdown and because the group believes its job is done, Clean Power Now Executive Director Barbara Hill said in a telephone interview.
“Looking at it realistically, our core mission was met,” Hill said about the group’s goal to educate people about the proposed Nantucket Sound wind farm and wind energy in general. Unprocessed donation checks will be returned to senders, and the organization will end its business with a zero cash balance, Hill said.
The group’s creation was announced during a press conference on Kalmus Beach in June 2003, two years after the plan to build 170 wind turbines on Nantucket Sound was announced. The number of turbines in the project was later reduced to 130.
“I think it’s been a very meaningful, worthwhile effort,” said retired engineer Charles Kleekamp, who helped found the organization and stayed on as a member of its board of directors.
Although no specific moment over the past eight years stands out for him, Kleekamp remembers the many hearings on Cape Wind that he attended, including some at which he chugged mineral oil in an attempt to prove that the oil to be used on Cape Wind’s electric service platform was harmless.
“It would usually bring a real chuckle from the audience,” he said.
Another of the group’s founders, Liz Argo, said Kleekamp was among a group of Clean Power Now members who used their talents and experience to advance the group’s goals.
Argo, who has helped found the Cape and Islands Wind Information Network after she stopped working with Clean Power Now in 2006, said most people want to see offshore wind energy happen; it’s just a matter of getting it done.
U.S. Interior Secretary Kenneth Salazar’s approval of Cape Wind in 2010 was the highlight for Clean Power Now, Hill said.
Now that the fight over the project has moved to the legal and financial arenas, Clean Power Now’s resources are no longer as necessary as they once were, Hill said.
“The Department of Interior has adequate representation with the Department of Justice,” Hill said about how the federal government will defend challenges to Salazar’s approval.
“It’s bittersweet,” Hill said of the board’s decision to close the doors on Clean Power Now. “We would love to be still around when the electric service platform goes in and 130 turbines go up, but it’s just not practical.”
Cape Wind must still secure funding for the project. The company has sold half its power to National Grid but financing for the project is premised on the company selling the remainder.
The state, which has supported Cape Wind under Gov. Deval Patrick’s administration, has applied pressure on NStar to buy the project’s remaining power, but so far the utility has not agreed to do so.
Cape Wind’s primary opposition group, the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, remains committed to fighting the project, said Audra Parker, alliance president and chief executive officer. She added that opposition has continued to grow based on the high cost of electricity from the turbines.
Parker thinks there’s more to Clean Power Now closing up shop than the group’s work being complete
“I think it’s a clear indicator that public support for Cape Wind has eroded dramatically,” she said. “Cape Wind has suffered serious setbacks this year and (Clean Power Now’s) job is done because Cape Wind is not going to be built.”
The alliance and the town of Barnstable won a lawsuit in October challenging the FAA’s approval of the project and the Department of Energy put a $2 billion loan guarantee for Cape Wind on hold earlier this year.
Cape Wind spokesman Mark Rodgers wrote in a statement to the Times that Clean Power Now volunteers, staff and directors should be proud of their work.
“They mobilized the voices of the many people of the Cape and Islands who support Cape Wind, and they were there in force when they were most needed to demonstrate public support and to help counter misinformation being put out by project opponents,” Rodgers wrote.
The difficulty of raising funds for nonprofit organizations is evident in the alliance’s own 2010 financial records, which show it was $1.5 million in debt at the end of the year, Rodgers wrote.
Parker countered that the opposition group has continued to do well raising money. She cited a more than 20 percent increase – $1.42 million to $1.74 million – in the amount raised from 2009 to 2010.
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