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Pro–Cape Wind nonprofit group runs out of steam

Cape Wind’s biggest support group is shutting down, saying its “core mission has been accomplished” even though the controversial offshore energy project has been halted by legal challenges and a lack of financing.

Clean Power Now started losing steam after Cape Wind won federal approval in April 2010 to put 130 turbines in Nantucket Sound, shifting the project from regulatory reviews and public hearings to court battles and private business negotiations. The nonprofit has had a harder time raising money in the last year.

“Once the permitting was complete I really felt like we had met the core mission, and met it at the gold standard,” said executive director Barbara Hill. “This has been an eight-year, very passionate, committed fight and I think we can all rest assured we added value to the conversation.”

The Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, Cape Wind’s top critic, said the rival group’s dissolution marks another setback in a year of big blows to the $2.5 billion project, such as the loss of U.S. loan backing and rejection of an FAA ruling.

“I think it’s a clear sign that support for Cape Wind has rapidly eroded and the project is dead in the water,” said Audra Parker, the Alliance’s CEO.

Developer Cape Wind Associates of Boston praised Clean Power Now’s efforts to promote renewable energy. “They mobilized the voices of the many people of the Cape and Islands who support Cape Wind,” said company spokesman Mark Rodgers.

The two nonprofit groups once waged their pitched battle from the same office building on Hyannis’ Main Street.

“They put out really good material,” Rob Garrity, head of the Massachusetts Climate Action Network, said of Clean Power Now. “Their stuff was well researched and well documented.”

But the Alliance always had the fundraising advantage. The Alliance has raised about $23 million since it started in 2002, although it ended 2010 with a $1.3 million deficit because of mounting legal bills.

“We never had those deep pockets,” Hall said, adding that her group’s annual budget topped out at about $300,000.

Hall – who lives in Centerville a mile from Craigville Beach, a stretch of shoreline that would have views of Cape Wind’s turbines spinning six miles out – remains confident the project will be able to leap its legal hurdles, land a buyer for half its power and line up financing.

“We wouldn’t have worked for so long and so hard without the belief that we’d eventually see this project one day,” Hall said. “We’re looking forward to seeing the turbines out there.”