A record £4.8m was paid to wind farm operators in the space of one day, for switching off turbines when it became too windy.
More than 60 farms – most in Scotland – were compensated after electricity supply outstripped demand on October 8. The bonanza far exceeded the previous reported record of £3.1m, sparking fresh criticism of the Scottish government’s headlong rush towards green energy.
In exceptionally windy conditions, the National Grid cannot cope with the extra energy turbines produce, so firms receive “constraint payments” to shut down. Although most wind power comes from Scotland, households across Britain are funding the payments through their electricity bills.
“The high costs of wind farm constraints result from the Scottish government’s unbalanced enthusiasm for wind power,” said John Constable, director of London’s Renewable Energy Foundation (REF), a charity that is critical of subsidies for wind power.
“In a striking example of democratic deficit, these costs are paid for predominantly by English and Welsh consumers, who have no votes in Holyrood. As history shows, “taxation without representation” is politically unstable. This simply has to stop.”
Analysis by REF shows that 63 wind farms were compensated when heavy winds battered the country on October 8. The largest payout of £663,638 was handed to Scottish and Southern Energy’s Clyde wind farm in South Lanarkshire. Scottish Power, the operator of Whitelee wind farm near Glasgow, received almost £500,000.
Four offshore wind farms south of the border – including West of Duddon Sands (108 turbines) and Ormonde (30 turbines), both in the Irish Sea – shared a total of £720,000.
Constraint payments to wind power are breaking records on a regular basis. It was reported that a record had been set when £3.1m was paid to shut down wind farms on July 28.
Analysis by REF reveals this level was exceeded on October 2, when £3.4m was paid, only for that record to be smashed a week later.
A monthly record of £28.4m was set in September, £5m more than the previous record of £23.2m in October 2017. The annual record of £108m, set last year, looks certain to be broken this year.
The handouts have been blamed on the late handover of a £1bn sub-sea cable to transfer surplus energy south of the border. The Western Link cable, running from Ayrshire to Wirral, only started to work at full capacity in September, nearly three years late.
Jenny Hogan, deputy chief executive of Scottish Renewables, said: “Constraint payments are a normal part of the overall efficient management of our electricity system, given the limitations of the UK’s ageing energy infrastructure.”
The Scottish government said: “Wind energy is proven and is now the cheapest means of generating electricity. Vital grid investment is now happening.”
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