Revealed: As Hurricane Gonzalo blew into UK energy firms were paid £5m to turn off their wind turbines
Wind farm companies were paid more than £5million last week to switch OFF their turbines as Hurricane Gonzalo battered the UK.
The so-called “constraint payments” were made because the turbines were producing more energy than the National Grid could handle.
On Tuesday, the day the former hurricane struck, operators across Britain were paid £2.1million, money that will come from household bills.
Campaigners said £440,000 of it was paid to ScottishPower Renewables for shutting down or slowing the turbines at Whitelee, near East Kilbride – Europe’s second biggest wind farm.
So far this year, £33.7million has been paid to wind farm firms, with £5.5million being paid last week, a record for seven days. In 2012, £5.9million was paid for the year.
Critics said turbines are being erected faster than the National Grid can absorb the electricity they produce.
The figures were produced from industry data by the Renewable Energy Foundation, who argue against wind farm expansion.
REF research director Dr Lee Moroney said: “The ever increasing rise in the cost of constraint payments underlines the folly of the policy in Scotland.
“Wind farms are granted planning permission well ahead of the grid’s ability to absorb their output.
“But these scandalous payments are only half the story. When wind power is paid to stop generating on one side of a grid bottleneck, the electricity system is out of balance, and another generator elsewhere in the system must be paid to start generating.
“These additional, knock-on costs of the wind power policy, are very hard to identify but are likely to be large.
“The consumer is being ripped off and both government and regulator seem content to stand idly by.”
Susan Crosthwaite, of the European Platform Against Windfarms, said: “This exposes a chaotic energy policy that just doesn’t make sense.”
Labour’s energy spokesman, Tom Greatrex MP, said: “The level of constraint payments underlines the importance of ensuring that the British-wide grid infrastructure is robust enough to be able to accommodate the amount of energy being generated from renewables.”
The National Grid said the payments were needed to balance supply and demand.
A spokeswoman said: “Constraint payments are made when there is congestion on the network.
“We choose whatever generation is the cheapest to constrain at a given time to keep costs as low as possible.”
ScottishPower Renewables said: “We don’t want to be constrained but we are told occasionally to reduce output so the wider grid system isn’t adversely affected.
“We continue to have one of the lowest bid prices in the wind industry.”
Energy regulators Ofgem said that prices to curtail wind had fallen since they were given powers in 2012 to take action against generators gaining too much at times of constraint.
A spokesman added: “The average price paid to wind farm operators to reduce generation prior to the powers coming into force was £197/MWh.
“The average price paid in 2014 was £83/MWh.”
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