Wistful hopes for US offshore wind energy

Despite its promise, the American wind industry is caught in the crosswinds of American politics — and that uncertain situation set up a surreal contrast when wind enterprises gathered here to tout their technologies.

The American Wind Energy Association’s conference exhibition hall was full of European and multinational firms that are busy plunging scores of turbines into their waters. German developers talked about how the industry has transformed rusting homeland harbors into bustling ports, while British officials boasted that industry investment in offshore wind will leap from $8 billion in the last decade to $80 billion in the next eight years.

Representatives of American firms could only watch wistfully and wish the US government cared as much about wind energy as Europe does. Peter Duclos and Tim McAuliffe were two of those wistful watchers. Gladding-Hearn, their Somerset, Mass., company, specializes in ferries, patrol boats, pilot boats, and tugboats. They want to make boats to transport workers and equipment out to turbines.

 

“Some people estimate that for every 10 to 15 turbines, you need a vessel to get the technicians out there,” said Duclos, the company’s president. “And every active shipyard means other companies making more piping, electronics, even more business at the local liquor store.”

If the East Coast had a thriving offshore-wind industry, the ship-building company could double its current workforce of 100, added McAuliffe, the company’s engineering liaison.

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