The Port of Ardersier has just submitted plans to Highland Council, Marine Scotland and Transport Scotland for the consents needed to transform the massive site 15 miles east of Inverness into a major European manufacturing port for the offshore wind industry.
The location was once the scene of massive engineering activity as the McDermotts Fabrication Yard, where thousands of workers were involved in constructing oil rigs and platforms in the 1970s and 80s.
The developers are now planning to give the site – closed in 2002 – a second lease of life.
With 138 hectares (340 acres) of vacant land and a deep water quay, the purpose-built yard – located on the Moray Firth – is ideally placed to take a slice of the estimated £70-80 billion UK offshore wind construction market.
There are very few deep water ports around the North Sea with this quantity of vacant manufacturing space – more than three times the size of London’s Olympic stadium site.
Once approved, the harbour revision order, onshore planning and marine consents would permit major dredging later this year, which could enable the port to be open for business in early 2014.
It is estimated the £4.5 billion Moray offshore wind farm, currently being developed jointly by EDP Renewables and Repsol Nuevas Energias UK, could alone bring up to 3000 jobs to the region.
Port of Ardersier chief executive officer Captain Stephen Gobbi said: “There are few other locations in the UK, or indeed Europe, which can offer this quality and quantity of vacant land, a 1000 metre deep water quay and proximity to the major offshore wind development zones in the North Sea.
“Ardersier complements other sites in Scotland and offers offshore wind developers and manufacturers the opportunity to site their operations close to the first-generation deep water sites in the firths of Moray, Tay and Forth.
“We hope our application will be viewed positively.”
He added: We believe a thriving port would bring investment and skilled employment to the Highlands and to Scotland, and we are grateful for the on-going support from Highlands and Islands Enterprise in achieving that goal.
“We will be holding a public information event on the site in the coming weeks and we hope as many local people with an interest in the site are able to come along and find out about our exciting plans.”
Earlier this year Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond announced a memorandum of understanding between Highlands and Islands Enterprise and the Port of Ardersier which recognises the port’s capacity to become one of the key manufacturing, construction and installation hubs for projects such as Moray.
Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth John Swinney has also recently visited the site to find out more about its potential.
The former McDermott Fabrication Yard was built on land reclaimed from the foreshore in the 1970s for the fabrication and construction of North Sea oil and gas platforms.
At its height, the yard employed 4500 people, and the developers claim renewable energy could deliver a second jobs boom for the site.
It closed in 2002 and the 270-acre site was bought for development as a resort of 3000 houses with a marina.
Its massive deck assembly shed that covered eight acres and stood 100ft tall was pulled down and the 10,000 tons of metal recovered were shipped out to be used to build new factories in the China.
However, three years ago Ardersier was included in Scotland’s National Renewables Infrastructure Plan as one of 11 possible manufacturing sites for the offshore green energy industry.
The plan’s goal is to enable Scotland to accelerate the development of offshore wind and capture a major slice of the supply chain and jobs potential.
Speaking recently, Scottish Energy, Enterprise and Tourism Minister Fergus Ewing MSP said: “Offshore renewables represent a huge opportunity for Scotland; an opportunity to build up new industries and to deliver on our ambitious renewable energy and carbon reduction targets.
“The Scottish Government is committed to the successful and sustainable development of an offshore wind sector, which could lead to a potential generation of over £7 billion to Scotland’s economy and support up to 28,000 direct jobs and a further 20,000 indirect jobs by 2020.”