Wind farm companies operating in Scotland were paid more than £1 million to shut down their turbines for a single day last month, it has emerged.
A total of £1,146,614 was handed out to the operators of 13 Scottish wind farms, including almost £300,000 for a development built on land owned by the Duke of Roxburghe.
The money, which ultimately comes from electricity consumers’ bills, was given to wind farm companies to compensate them for not producing power during periods of high generation and low demand.
This can happen when it is too windy so as not to overload the National Grid. Anti-wind farm campaigners fear the payments will only increase thanks to Alex Salmond’s drive for a large expansion in the number of turbines north of the Border.
According to figures provided by the Renewable Energy Foundation (REF), a charity that publishes information on the energy sector, more than £1 million in such “constraint payments” were paid out on April 29.
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.
However, the second-largest beneficiary was the Fallago Rig Wind Farm run by EDF on land it rents from Roxburghe in the Lammermuir Hills. The French energy firm was handed more than £296,000 to shut down the turbines, which only started generating electricity at the end of January.
Murdo Fraser, a 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, the REF’s director, 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.”
According to the REF figures, enough wind-generated electricity to power 10,000 homes was “dumped” by the National Grid last month. A total of £3.6 million of constraint payments were made to wind farm companies in April, the highest monthly total since September 2011.
EDF charged between £89 to £149 for every megawatt hour (MWh) of energy that was not produced, compared to £50 per MWh the company would have received for selling it.
Although the Duke of Roxburghe will not benefit from the constraint payments, a recent book by Struan Stevenson, a Tory MEP, suggested the landowner could receive up to £1.5 million per year in rent.
A spokesman for EDF said the constraint payments reflected the costs and lost revenues from shutting down the turbines.
He added: “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.”
A spokesman for the National Grid said the payments spiked while maintenance was carried out. A spokesman for Roxburghe refused to comment on its “commercial agreement” with EDF.
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