Large wind turbines in the Westcountry are being down-rated to run with less powerful generators to cash in on government subsidies, a scientist campaigning against wind farms claims.
The poorly-designed system of incentives designed by the Government is encouraging developers to produce less electricity than the equipment is capable of, yet make more than 50% more profit, according to North Devon energy consultant Dr Phil Bratby.
The practice, which is confined to single turbines rather than large plants, could be littering the region with giant turbines designed to meet financial rather than renewable energy targets.
Retired physicist Dr Bratby, who lives near Knowstone, near the proposed site of the nine-turbine Batsworthy Cross wind farm, has given evidence about the inefficiency of turbines at six public inquiries. He says some developers are more interested in making money than harnessing renewable energy.
“The government has weighted the subsidy levels so small landowners and farmers get the best deal,” he added.
“Because of how the subsidies are ranked, developers have realised generating less energy is more profitable for them.”
The Government’s Feed-in-Tarrif (FiT) scheme for wind power is divided into six bands, ranging from 21 pence per kilowatt hour (p/kWh) for installed capacity of less than 1.5kW down to 4.48p/kWh for large projects of above 1.5 megawatts (MW).
The owner of a wind turbine gets the generation tariff for each kWh of electricity produced plus the export tariff of 4.5p for each kWh not used and exported to the grid.
One of the more common practices is said to be designing an 800kW system then down-rating it to 500kW.
The larger 800kW turbine would net 14ppkWh while a 500kW turbine exporting all the electricity gets 22p/kWh, an increase of 57%.
The claims were denied by Marlies Koutstaal, from turbine development company Infinergy.
She said it would be difficult for this to happen because the energy industry was regulated by the gas and electricity watchdog Ofgem.
She said: “The turbines we have must be regulated by Ofgem. We also look at each site to see what sort of turbine would be suitable.
“We look at the land and see what dimensions would be best, based on information we have at that particular moment.
North Devon MP Nick Harvey, said he will be writing to the planning minister and the Department of Energy and Climate Change.
Mr Harvey said the problem was “bigger than he first thought”.
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