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BP ‘terminating’ Cape Vincent Wind Project

BP Wind Energy is pulling out of Cape Vincent after unsuccessful attempts to sell its 285-megawatt industrial wind farm project.

“With this termination, Cape Vincent Wind Power LLC will withdraw from the New York State Article X permitting process and will wind down all of its contracts and agreements for the project. We expect this to be completed in the coming months,” said BP spokesman Jason Ryan in an email to the Times.

Land leases tied to the project will be terminated effective March 31 and meteorological towers will be taken down “as soon as reasonably possible” this spring, according to letters BP sent to wind leaseholders.

For nearly a decade, commercial wind development has been a dividing force between year-round residents – who welcome the project as a new source of revenue for rural landowners and local municipalities – and seasonal residents, many of whom fear industrial turbines in the community would devalue their homes and waterfront cottages.

But the battle between pro- and anti-wind residents dating back to 2005 came to a rather anticlimactic end with BP confirming Wednesday that it will terminate the project – less than four weeks before the March 17 deadline set by the state Public Service Commission for the company to find a buyer.

“It’s a sad day for Cape Vincent. The few people who don’t live here are now running the town,” leaseholder Harvey J. White said, referring to how seasonal residents practically took control of the town board by changing their residencies for the sole purpose of voting for anti-wind candidates for Cape Vincent Town Council.

The only remnants of this drawn-out conflict seem to be distrust and lingering grudges between neighbors and ex-friends.

But some, including Councilman John L. Byrne III, believe the Cape Vincent community can break this seemingly endless cycle of hatred.

“I don’t think people give the people of Cape Vincent enough credit,” he said. “This community is a strong community. We will pull together. Cape Vincent will be just fine.”

Gary J. King, an outspoken supporter of wind development in Cape Vincent, said he believes BP scrapping the estimated $300 million project was purely a business decision.

“I don’t believe it was because of the turmoil,” Mr. King said. “They’re just making a business decision. They don’t want to run the risk and are probably trying to stick with oil.”

Councilman Byrne agreed that BP decided to drop its 124-turbine project most likely because of the uncertainty surrounding the wind industry these days, and “not because it cares about what happens to the community.”

Mr. Byrne said a wind farm project without federal subsidies, a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement nor customers to buy its electricity probably would not have made much sense to any energy developer.

The federal wind production tax credit expired Dec. 31 and Congress has yet to renew the program that offered $23 per megawatt of electricity generated for the first decade of a wind farm’s operation.

BP twice tried to sell the Cape Vincent project along with its other U.S. wind assets.

Unable to find a high enough bidder for its entire 2.6-gigawatt portfolio – which included several planned projects and 16 active wind farms – the company made a second attempt at divesting wind assets last fall, but this time decided to sell off just its “in-development” wind projects and keep the operating wind farms.

“BP Wind Energy is concluding the divestment of the remaining assets in its wind development portfolio, and proceeding to terminate our position in the Cape Vincent, NY, wind farm,” Mr. Ryan said in his email. “BP is retaining operating wind farms in its portfolio at this time. Our focus remains on ensuring safe and reliable operations, and on maximizing the financial and operational performance of the existing assets.”

But because BP is keeping the terms of its divested assets confidential, Town Supervisor Urban C. Hirschey said he was skeptical that a wind farm development in Cape Vincent was completely off the table.

“I’m not optimistic at all. It’s too early to rejoice,” he said.