A FORMER oil yard which once employed 3,000 people could recapture its glory days with a new role at the forefront of the green energy industry.
It was revealed last night that major players in the sector are eyeing the former McDermotts site at Ardersier – and a study on deepening the approach channel to the complex has been launched.
Scottish Government Minister Fergus Ewing confirmed that the yard had attracted “interest and visits” from Mitsubishi Power Systems, EDPR, Subsea 7 and Siemens.
Hopes of a revival for the huge coastal site between Inverness and Nairn emerged as development agency Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) unveiled its three-year growth plan.
It will involve investing £190million in the region, creating and maintaining up to 2,700 jobs.
Energy Minister Mr Ewing revealed the potential renaissance for the 816-acre site at Ardersier after being quizzed by Highlands and IslandsConservative MSP Mary Scanlon.
The oil fabrication yard closed in 2002, following almost 30 years in operation and was bought by a local consortium Whiteness Property Company (WPC) for £7million.
In 2006, it won outline planning permission for 1,950 houses and a 500-berth marina, but has also promoted its potential as a base for building green energy devices.
Mr Ewing said: “There is commercial interest in acquiring the site for renewables energy use and we are working with WPC and HIE in securing future renewables tenants for the site.
“To date, Ardersier has had interest and visits fromMitsubishi Power Systems, EDPR, Subsea 7 and Siemens.”
He added that a number of studies involving HIE were taking place on the deepening of the approach channel to about 30ft. Ms Scanlon said the news showed the site had a “positive future”.
She added: “Ardersier was once the hub of a vibrant local community and employed people from across the Highlands and Moray.
“After several years of little or no activity on the site, it is very welcome to see various options being considered to revitalise the yard. This future investment will be warmly welcomed by local people and businesses in the area who I am sure will benefit from a long-term positive future on this large site.”
Inverness Chamber of Commerce president Callum Grant said: “This is a sign of the strength of the Highlands that outside companies are coming here and looking to develop.
“It’s great that HIE and the existing owner are doing their part to attract major investment to Inverness and the north of Scotland.”
Highlands and Islands Labour MSP David Stewart said: “I clearly welcome any development that would provide opportunities for marine renewable energy in the Highlands and islands.”
Ironically, the good news was also delivered exactly a decade after warnings were issued that the north’s fabrication industry could be lost.
But the prospect of a rebirth for Ardersier emerged just months after it was announced that the Nigg yard across the firth would be revitalised after being bought by the Global Energy Group.
In its prime during the North Sea boom of the 70s and 80s, it employed 5,000, but it had lain all but idle since 2002.
Now it is set for a new lease of life – thanks to renewables – as Nigg Energy Park.
When the two Moray Firth yards were in full production, along with Kishorn on the west coast, millions were once pumped into the Highland and islands economy each year – until the rig fabrication bubble burst.