First US-Built Boat Servicing Offshore Wind Farms Is Ready to Launch

(Bloomberg) -- A new boat the length of a football field, built to help operate US offshore wind farms, will be christened Saturday in New Orleans with Republican and Democratic lawmakers looking on — a show of bipartisan support for an industry that GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump frequently attacks.

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The 262-foot Eco Edison, bobbing in the muddy waters of the Mississippi River, is the first US-built vessel for maintaining offshore wind farms. It was built by Danish energy giant Orsted AS and Massachusetts utility Eversource Energy to service their projects in the Northeast and is a sign of the companies’ commitment to an industry that’s struggled to grow in the face of supply and cost headwinds.

“It’s a real milestone” for the sector, David Hardy, head of Orsted’s North America offshore wind business, said in an interview before the event. “It’s really symbolic of what’s to come.”

Although offshore wind is long established in Europe, the US only completed its first utility-scale farms earlier this year. The industry has been beset in recent years by inflation, supply chain kinks and local pushback, with big projects delayed and even cancelled.

House Majority Leader Steve Scalise of Louisiana, who endorsed Trump in January, will be on hand Saturday to celebrate the Eco Edison, with his wife Jennifer officially christening the vessel. At a ceremony held last year when the big boat was under construction, Scalise said, “Wind is the newest form of energy we will dominate. We need to open more of it.”

Louisiana Representative Troy Carter, a Democrat, and Governor Jeff Landry, a Republican, were also slated to attend the New Orleans event.

Hours later on Saturday, Trump will hold a campaign rally on a beach in New Jersey, where plans to develop offshore wind have spurred both support and pushback.

Read More: Trump Presidency Is Next Worry for Battered US Wind Sector

The former US president has been clear about his dislike for clean energy and wind farms. Analysts say that if he returns to the White House he may target the sector, and even projects that are now fully operating could be in danger.

Asked about Trump’s attitude toward wind power, Hardy demurred but said support for offshore wind is increasingly bipartisan. “We’re here in the red state of Louisiana, we’re creating economic value for people. We have red leaders and blue leaders coming to the event.”

New Jersey has become a center of both promise for offshore wind and opposition to it. The state set a goal of generating 11 gigawatts of power from ocean breezes. Those plans have provoked strong criticism from politicians and local residents alike.

Trump recently ramped up his anti-wind rhetoric, telling attendees at a Florida fundraiser last month that he hates wind farms, according to people familiar with the matter. The site of his Saturday rally in Wildwood, New Jersey, looks out at a patch of ocean about 10 miles (16 kilometers) offshore that’s set to be the biggest wind farm in the state — a fitting place for him to potentially restate his views on wind energy.

--With assistance from Stephanie Lai.

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