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Q&A with Peter Duprey: Leading in an uncertain energy industry

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Peter Duprey is president and CEO of Broadwind Energy, a provider of products and services primarily for the wind-energy industry. He previously served as CEO of ACCIONA North America. SmartBrief asked him about the industry and his leadership style. This is an edited version of that conversation.

Where is the U.S. wind-energy industry right now? What’s on the horizon?

Although regulatory uncertainty for [renewable energy] remains a barrier to future growth, the U.S. wind industry has seen recent momentum. In fact, [the American Wind Energy Association] reported that the first quarter of 2011 saw more than double the wind capacity installed in the first quarter of 2010. With fossil fuel costs likely remaining low for the next three to five years, the industry continues to drive out cost to compete, and at the same time, the impending expiration of production tax credits has encouraged the industry to get projects going by the end of  2012. The focus on cost reductions and efficiency improvements is good for the long-term health of the industry; however, incentives are still required for a robust wind industry.

What sort of approach do you take in leading your company?

To navigate the uncertainty of U.S. wind, Broadwind Energy is leveraging its core competencies in gearing, specialty weldments and services in other energy and infrastructure markets. For example, gearboxes are critical components in the oil and [natural] gas, mining and steel sectors. There is a real demand for the integrated solutions we offer to customers. Also, Broadwind Energy is proud to help rebuild the base of manufacturing jobs in the U.S. while repurposing old industrial sites and stimulating local economies. The need for domestic energy spurs job creation, and Broadwind Energy is delighted to play a part in this.

What challenges does Broadwind face, and how do you plan to address them?

We undoubtedly need more regulatory certainty to help tame the volatility of the wind industry in the U.S., as the industry will remain challenged without it. We believe that expanding Broadwind Energy’s efforts to provide gearing and specialty weldment solutions to customers across the broader energy and industrial sectors will help us provide a more consistent and predictable revenue stream. In turn, this revenue will support our work in wind as we help customers meet the emerging need for domestic energy to power a cleaner, stronger America.

To what do you attribute your company’s positive first-quarter earnings?

In the first quarter of 2011, we saw our focus on larger multimegawatt wind towers and expanded presence in oil, gas, mining and steel begin to pay off. While the U.S. wind-energy market remains uncertain, our offerings in gearing, specialty weldments and services continue to provide value to our customers. In addition, the strategic shift of our services business, from supporting turbine installations to offering key nonroutine maintenance services — including gearbox replacement and uptower repair services — has also proved beneficial.