A US private equity fund has committed £300mn to help redevelop the Ardersier port near Inverness as a site for the rollout of North Sea wind power, marking a significant investment in the Scottish supply chain for renewable energy.
The Ardersier Port’s McDermott construction yard was key to the development of the North Sea oil and gas sector in the 1970s and 1980s but shut over 20 years ago as demand for new platforms dried up.
But the UK’s accelerating push into offshore wind aims to give the 450 acre site new life, with the investment designed to transform it for the deployment of turbines and the decommissioning of old oil and gas assets.
Quantum Energy Partners will make a £300mn equity investment in the port and has appointed former BP executive Lewis Gillies as chief executive of the port’s new parent company, Haventus.
“The site’s scale and geographical location means it is ideally positioned to become a leading European hub for offshore renewable energy,” said Quantum partner Michael MacDougall.
Gillies, who was an early proponent of renewables and carbon capture and storage during his time at BP, said the development of the port would support “thousands of jobs” in the construction phase and hundreds long-term.
“Our project will bring a huge number of much-needed jobs to the Highlands economy both in the construction phase and for the long-term,” Gillies said.
“Ardersier will be a vital facility for the deployment of offshore wind and the scale of the site will also allow decommissioning of ageing oil and gas assets.”
Some 28 gigawatts of offshore wind development is planned in Scottish waters in the coming decade under the ScotWind programme, with companies including BP, Shell, Scottish Power and SSE having been awarded leases last year.
The UK government wants to expand offshore wind fivefold to 50GW by 2030.
Part of the port’s redevelopment will involve a significant extension of the site’s quay to accommodate larger vessels. Offshore wind towers can be over 200m in height. The £300mn investment is equivalent to almost 10 per cent of all private equity deals done in Scotland last year, according to KPMG.
Dredging work at the port, to remove sand that has washed in during its closure, started earlier this decade after the port was bought by Tony O’Sullivan and Steve Regan, former chief executive of civil engineering firm Careys.
Drew Hendry, the local Scottish National Party MP, said the investment could not be “underestimated” in terms of the potential for jobs and strengthening the local economy” and that it “underlines the attractiveness of the Highlands as the place for the future of energy.”
Gillies, who has worked with private equity backers in Texas since leaving BP, said Quantum was looking at a long-term investment rather than the more traditional five to seven-year timeframe favoured by private equity companies.
He said the company was already having “strategic” discussions with wind farm developers and manufacturers to ensure the port redevelopment was designed to exactly meet their needs.