An energy firm paid £7.5 million to switch off its wind turbines and stop producing electricity is planning to expand its wind farm in the Highlands.
Falck Renewables Wind will learn tomorrow whether councillors back their proposal to have 10 further turbines added to its Millennium Wind Farm in the hills above Loch Ness at Glenmoriston.
Latest figures reveal they have made £2.8million to stop producing electricity on 77 occasions this year alone, and £7.5 million since operations began in 2009.
Planning officials have recommended councillors not to object, but anti-windfarm campaigners have hit out at the plans.
Highlands and islands MSP Mary Scanlon said: “This application for an extension appears to defy logic.
“It doesn’t make any sense to build an extension to an existing wind farm where considerable constraint payments have been made.
“With no options for storage, it just doesn’t make sense.”
Anti-wind farm campaigner Stuart Young said: “It’s absolutely appalling that Highland Council planners are recommending approval when all this money is being spent and the power is not needed.”
He added that, if the additional 10 turbines had been in place from the beginning, the energy company would have received more than £11.5 million in non-production payments, including more than £4 million this year.
Falck says the existing wind farm generates 65MW of power – enough to supply about 36,000 homes.
The extension would add another 35MW, providing power for about another 19,000 homes.
It is understood a development on the scale of the Millenium Wind Farm would earn £85 per MW per hour when it is operating – and £121 when it is not producing electricity.
Richard Dibley, Falck project manager, said: “All forms of energy generators receive constraint payments, not just wind farms.
“National Grid contracts with supply companies to supply electricity on to the grid in a planned way. Sometimes power cannot be transmitted to where it is needed, usually due to congestion at one or more points on the transmission network and National Grid needs to take action to balance out the network.
“National Grid equates this to occasionally using traffic lights to manage the flow of cars joining a motorway during a busy period.
“It wouldn’t be economic or sensible to build another parallel motorway so that there was never a traffic jam. Sometimes National Grid asks wind farms to shut down because they are the most flexible and cost effective means of achieving balance on the grid.”
Regarding the latest proposal for 10 extra turbines, he added: “This is an extension to an existing wind farm which will have very minimal visual impact.
“It is close to our UK operational headquarters from where we monitor all our European wind farms.
“The existing Millennium Wind Farm is located on a site which enjoys an extremely good wind resource and is a well established and very successful producer of electricity.”