Norwegian state energy firm Equinor has brought highly experienced renewable energy executive Samuel Byrne as vice president (VP) of operations for its US renewables division.

Byrne most recently served as VP for operations and maintenance (O&M) at Vestas Wind Systems in Asia-Pacific, covering some 15GW of onshore and offshore capacity as well as solar and battery storage across 13 countries.

He had also previously worked in Vestas’ corporate strategy and mergers & acquisitions divisions.

Byrne’s “extensive experience in the renewable energy sector, coupled with his proven track record in managing large-scale projects, will be invaluable as we continue to build and expand Equinor’s renewable energy portfolio in the US,” said Molly Morris, president of Equinor Renewables Americas.

Equinor with partner, oil supermajor BP, is leading New York’s charge into offshore wind with its 2.1GW Empire Wind 1 & 2 and 1.2GW Beacon Wind arrays.

The developer has selected Vestas as its preferred supplierfor its 15MW turbines.

Byrne’s responsibilities will include leading and overseeing Equinor’s US offshore wind O&M activities, while ensuring development and execution of safe, efficient, and cost-effective operations.

“Equinor is at the forefront of the energy transition, and I look forward to joining the company’s talented team that is developing market-leading offshore wind, energy storage and other projects in the US,” said Byrne.

Equinor’s Empire project was recently issued its environmental impact statement (EIS) by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), lead regulator of energy development in federal waters, a major step towards full approval.

The project is expected to receive its record of decision (ROD) before the end of the year, clearing it for construction.

Economic challenges

Along with most US projects, though, the Equinor-BP partnership has struggled with deteriorating sector economics amid high inflation and rising interest rates and has petitioned New York to raise rates for its offtake contracts.

The JV is calling for “a 54% increase on average across its portfolio”, it said in their petition to the New York Public Service Commission, including a 55% hike for Beacon that would raise its rate from $118 per MWh to $190.82/MWh – the most among all US projects.

The projects are the heart of nearly $500m of investment into supply chain infrastructure, including the $250m revamp of the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal for staging and assembly of the projects.

Danish shipper Maersk has likewise entered into contracts to build a wind turbine installation vessel (WTIV) for the project specially designed for the feeder-barge system required in US waters in compliance with the Jones Act.

The Jones Act forbids foreign flagged vessels from calling in at consecutive US ports or points on the outer continental shelf, including turbines. As the US has as yet no domestically built WTIV and only one under construction, most projects will deploy US-flagged barges to deliver components to the project site.

The Empire project has also sparked investment in a tower making facility at the upstate Port of Albany, located 150 miles north of New York City, by aJV of Canada-based Marmen and Welcon of Denmark.