A single windfarm operator in Scotland is in line to receive £1.2 million for turning off its turbines for just 12 hours during the high winds caused by the tail end of Hurricane Katina.
The windfall was agreed to power down the Crystal Rigg II farm on the Lammermuir Hills in the Borders, as gusts of up to 90mph pushed too much electricity into the National Grid.
Operator Fred Olsen Renewables will receive the payment after agreeing to cease production for eight hours on Saturday, 30 minutes on Sunday and four hours on Monday.
To prevent structural damage turbines are also designed to cease operation when winds are at speeds greater than 60mph.
It has also emerged not one turbine in Scotland produced any electricity on two separate days – August 30 and September 15 – within the past month.
National Grid is due to pay £2.9m in compensation to the 13 windfarms put out of operation, costs picked up by the consumer in their bills. The most recent bill, covering ceased operations between Saturday and Tuesday, is more than half the £4.3m paid out in the course of the 12 months up to June.
The operators of Crystal Rigg demand some of the highest prices in the industry.
The National Grid has a balancing mechanism to steady the power running into the network with “constraint payments” for those who stop feeding energy into the grid. Operators are asked to submit their bids for how much power they can pull out of the system and at what price.
Fred Olsen offered £999 per megawatt-hour (MWh), a measurement of electricity generation, for shutting down Crystal Rigg II. By contrast, ScottishPower has a standard bid price of £180 per MWh, with Scottish and Southern Electric’s standard bid price thought to be £150 per MWh.
SSE would not comment on how long its Hadyard Hill Windfarm, near Carrick, South Ayrshire, was out of production at the weekend. But analysis by the Renewable Energy Foundation (REF), which campaigns for an efficient and environmentally sound energy policy, concluded it was due £438,000 for halting production in periods between September 10 and 14. This could not be confirmed by SSE.
ScottishPower’s 42-turbine Black Law windfarm near Forth, South Lanarkshire, was switched off during low-demand spells, with the constraint payment thought to be worth in the region of £254,000, according to REF.
REF director Dr Lee Moroney described the Crystal Rigg figure as “staggering”. “The policies which encourage and then attempt to manage over-large and intermittent wind fleets need to be revised promptly,” she said.
A spokesman for energy regulator Ofgem said the payments were under review with a new incentive regime in force at the Grid to promote a more effective balancing system. He added the cost of National Grid’s balancing actions is under £5 of the annual household bill, with constraint payments a “fraction” of that.
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Scottish and UK Governments have been working with the National Grid and others in the industry to strengthen grid capacity and address access constraints. Scotland is at the heart of plans to reinforce grid connections between Scotland and other parts of the UK, and for an interconnected offshore grid in the North Sea to allow Scotland to export greater amounts of green energy.”
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