Meet Mark Baxter, Caledonia Project Director
Expected to supply enough low-cost, low-carbon electricity to power almost two million homes across the UK, the Caledonia Offshore Wind Farm needs a strong leadership team in place to achieve its target of commencing operation in 2030.
We spoke to Mark Baxter, Caledonia’s Project Director, to learn more about his career so far and the lessons he’s learned along the way.
Tell us about your career so far
My career has taken an interesting path – I’ve worked in railways, network operators, software development and now, offshore wind.
After studying Environmental Management in Technology at Heriott Watt University, I spent eight years working in environmental consulting. During this time, I gained a wide range of knowledge and experience across the energy, environment and transport industries, supporting the private and public sectors to deliver positive change through their activities and projects.
I took a particular interest in large critical infrastructure projects, so moved into a lead environmental planner role on Crossrail, working across design, procurement and construction. I learnt an exceptional amount from the engineers, project managers, and other environmental professionals working on the project.
When I think about my career so far, I’d say one of the most defining moments has been threading a new underground railway and creating new stations in an environmentally considerate way. I rode the new Elizabeth Line on the London Underground only a few weeks ago and there’s nothing more satisfying than seeing something on paper turn into a tangible and critical piece of infrastructure.
A constant throughout my career has been my passion to work in areas with purpose, particularly ones which improve our environment. To me, it’s become clear that you can demonstrate value across different sectors through the outcomes you deliver and the challenges you overcome.
What inspired you to pursue a career in offshore wind?
I was given the opportunity to make the move into offshore wind 12 years ago, working on the largest of the Round 3 projects, Dogger Bank, as part of the Forewind Joint Venture. Here, I started in a project development manager role and quickly moved into the Senior Management Team as Head of Project Delivery.
Despite the complexity of this four-way joint venture, the project team was dedicated to maximising the capacity of the Dogger Bank projects and worked relentlessly to overcome significant consenting and engineering challenges. Delivering 4.8GW of consents for those projects remains one of my proudest moments and I’m grateful to have worked with an exceptional group of people with such focus, passion and dedication.
After some time working for Smarter Grid Solutions and SSEN where I learn a lot of valuable lessons, I made the decision to return to the offshore wind industry. It was evident that the sector was heading towards significant growth, and I was keen to work on large scale, critical infrastructure projects which address some of our present and future social and environmental challenges. This led me to my current role as Caledonia Project Director for Ocean Winds.
What excites you most about leading the Caledonia Project?
As Project Director, I’ve inherited an incredible group of people in a young and agile company who have proven experience of delivering successful offshore wind projects in Scotland. With this experience, and Caledonia’s unique location, we can accelerate project delivery to support UK and Scottish net zero targets, while contributing to strengthening domestic energy supply to support households and businesses across the country.
Caledonia is one of the early projects that can trigger this opportunity before 2030, should the project be given the necessary certainty to move quickly. The industry challenges are not insurmountable, but it’ll take practical political leadership, particularly in issues surrounding grid, supply chain and consenting, to overcome them.
With the Scottish Government’s support, Ocean Winds and other developers have the opportunity to create major positive change for local communities, supply chains and the environment for decades to come.
What advice would you give to those starting out in offshore wind?
If someone asked me what they should do at the start of their career, I would say be a curious sponge, and never stop being a one.
I’m a fitting example of how someone can transition across sectors. Your skills and experience are valued transversally – the key is learning how to demonstrate this value to prospective employers.
In every role I’ve had, I’ve identified colleagues I can learn from. I thank everyone who has offered me their time and their patience throughout my career – I wouldn’t be in the role or industry I’m in without it. I’d encourage others to do the same.