The amount of potential electricity from onshore wind farms that has been allowed to go untapped has more than doubled this year because the grid cannot cope.
Developers have received payments of £19 million not to generate 215 gigawatt hours – enough electricity to supply nearly 50,000 households for a year.
This is equivalent to three 30-megawatt wind farms, costing about £90 million to build, standing idle since the beginning of the year. Last year wind farms were paid not to generate 103GWh.
National Grid makes the payments in return for wind farms not generating electricity, mostly when it is very windy and there is low demand. The payments are recouped by charges on consumers’ electricity bills.
The company blamed very windy weather over the summer for the large amount of potential electricity going to waste. Last weekend alone, £3.9 million was paid to wind farms not to generate.
However, the amount per MWh that wind farms were paid not to generate has fallen significantly. National Grid has tightened rules to reduce the windfall profits that developers can make from these payments after an outcry from consumer groups.
The average payment they receive in addition to the wholesale price of electricity (about £50 per MWh) this year is £89 per MWh, compared with £130 last year and £218 in 2011.
John Constable, director of the Renewable Energy Foundation, a think-tank that is critical of the cost of wind farms, said: “National Grid is struggling to deal with this problem at reasonable cost to the consumer, and clearly needs some help from [the industry regulator] Ofgem.”
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