The son of a former County Durham miner is set to take charge of the day-to-day running of the world’s biggest wind farm – a £9billion renewable development capable of powering one in five home UK homes by 2026.
Peterlee-born Mark Halliday, whose father, Billy, once worked the coalface of Easington Colliery pit, has been appointed Operations Manager of the Dogger Bank Wind Farm currently being built in the North Sea.
And the former Dene House Comprehensive School pupil admits he couldn’t be more excited as he oversees the completion of the Farm’s onshore headquarters in Port of Tyne, South Shields, which officially opens next month.
“I’m very privileged”, he says of a job that carries the heavy responsibility of keeping the UK’s flagship green renewables project running smoothly.
“If someone had told me 20 years ago that I would lead the world’s largest windfarm into operation, I would have taken that as a fantastic achievement,” he reflected.
“I spent six years in manufacturing taking on various projects before realising that the renewable energy industry was growing and I wanted to be part of it.
“Twenty years ago, I moved into it and never looked back, it’s such a growth industry, and I’ve seen it develop over the years to the point where it has now reached something of the scale of Dogger Bank.
“My father worked in the mining industry and I work in the renewables industry, so you could say there’s that transition, in one generation of my family, similar to what the country as a whole has been going on for some time now.”
Mark, who formerly worked in operations at EDF Renewables and Siemens, is currently overseeing the completion of the Farm’s onshore base at the Port of Tyne in South Shields, a brand new building including warehouse and control room facilities which is due to officially open for business next month.
The construction of the Dogger Bank wind farm by Norwegian energy giant Equinor, has provided work all the way down the North East coast from Port of Tyne to Hartlepool, Teesside, and into Humberside.
The colossal farm will begin generating power in 2023, from its first phase – Dogger Bank A – and go on to provide about 5% of the UK’s entire energy needs by 2026, when phases B and C will also both be online.
It is expected to create 400 jobs in total, up to 70 of them at the South Shields base.
The phases are vast in scale with each one being treated in the same way as a coastal port would be in terms of docking, maintenance, and administration.
The farm is a huge civil engineering project made more challenging by the fact it is 100 miles from shore.
And while the North Sea might look placid in any number of drone shots of the site, the day-to-day reality is very different with high winds and swells creating challenges of their own.
All these things are being taken into account by Operations Director, Mark, and his team at the Port of Tyne.
Mark said: “The windfarm will become operational towards the end of summer 2023 which was why it was so important for us to spend six months getting our headquarters up to speed, ready for the teams to come in and be mobilised.
“We have our warehouse preparing for the transfer of goods and supplies and it’s very important to get that ready for Day One operations.
“Our job is to make sure that once the turbines start to become operational in the summer to make sure that they keep operational and ensure they’re maintained.
“Once the first turbines are installed we would expect to take over operations on Dogger Bank A, in early 2024.”
For Mark, it’s a source of personal satisfaction that, wherever possible, resources for the project are being procured from the region – including the workforce.
He said: “It was very important to us that our operational headquarters had a quayside that was really close to the building and we have a quayside just outside our warehouse in the Port of Tyne which gives us very efficient turnaround for the movement of materials and personnel.
“It also gives us easy access to our service supply vessels and the water depth we need.
“Beyond that though, one of the reasons why we are based in the North East is because of the skill set of the people here, people who run heavy industry -, it’s a great area to transition skills that already exist into offshore wind.
“We’ve brought people in from manufacturing backgrounds, from the rail network, from the chemical industry so we’ve got a very varied skill set which has transitioned into renewables.
“It’s all very exciting and it’s something that we as an area should be shouting about and talking up.
“It’s a growth industry and it’s an exciting industry and it’s here for the long term.
“For me, it’s fantastic to have been born in the North East and to see something like this happening here gives me great pride.
“I think to be involved in a project of this scale with so much innovation going on is exciting, I can’t wait to see it unfolding over the next few years.”