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£1m for wind farms to shut turbines for one day

Power companies operating wind farms in Scotland were paid more than £1 million to shut down their turbines for a single day last month, Scotland on Sunday can reveal.

New figures reveal that £1,146,614 was handed out to the operators of 13 Scottish wind farms, including £296,457 to a development built on land owned by the Duke of Roxburghe.

The cash, which ultimately comes from electricity consumers’ bills, was given to companies as part of a controversial scheme which compensates wind farm operators for not producing electricity.

The so-called “constraint payments” are paid by the National Grid to energy companies when energy supply outstrips demand – turbines are switched off so they stop producing electricity to rebalance the system.

A snapshot of the scale of the payments was provided by the Renewable Energy Foundation, a charity that publishes information on the energy sector, which compiled constraint payment data for 29 April.

The largest sum paid out on that date was £348,349, which was to shut off the Crystal Rig II wind farm operated by energy company Fred Olsen in East Lothian.

The second-biggest beneficiary was the Fallago Rig Wind Farm run by EDF on land it rents from Roxburghe in the Lammermuir Hills.

A spokesman for Roxburghe refused to comment yesterday on the details of its “commercial agreement with the developer”, other than to say it was “based on a rental for the wind farm”.

But EDF said it received the “full” amount of the constraint payment.

Although Roxburghe will not benefit from the constraint payment, a recent book So Much Wind: The Myth Of Green Energy by the Tory MEP Struan Stevenson suggested the landowner could receive up to £1.5m per year in rent.

Murdo Fraser, the Conservative MSP and a prominent wind farm critic, said: “People struggling with rising electricity bills and growing levels of fuel poverty will be astonished to learn that millions are being paid to companies for power which isn’t even being used.

“This illustrates yet again the folly of the SNP government’s wind energy policy.”

Dr John Constable, director of the Renewable Energy Foundation, said: “Constraint payments to wind are well in excess of the lost subsidy 
income, suggesting that the industry is taking advantage of the difficulties that they cause on the network.

“While perfectly legal, this is clearly unfair, and the regulator Ofgem needs to step in to protect the consumer.”

SSE was given £89,789 for shutting down Hadyard Hill wind farm in South Ayrshire on 29 April. Seven of Hadyard Hill’s 48 turbines are on land owned by Alex Fergusson, the Tory MSP. According to his register of interests, Fergusson receives between £40,000 and £45,000 per year in rent, but he does not receive any constraint payments.

Yesterday Fergusson said: “I don’t receive any constraint payment whatsoever. I have never understood a policy whereby wind farm operators are compensated not to operate. I find it quite extra-ordinary.”

A spokesman for the National Grid said: “As part of National Grid’s role, it can ask generators to come on or off the grid to manage constraints and keep the system balanced.

“We are incentivised to keep down balancing costs, including constraint payments, and we’ll always take the cheapest and most effective action first to do that.”

A spokesman for EDF said: “All generators are required to have commercial agreements in place with the National Grid. These agreements cover periods when the Grid instructs generators to temporarily decrease the power they generate.”