Over the past few weeks, wind farms have had to switch off their turbines after a series of faults with a major power line. The cost of shutting the firms has totalled more than £12million, as energy firms were awarded large sums in compensation dubbed “constraint payment” – with consumers having to foot the bill. The payouts, which will ultimately be added to consumer bills, were between 25 percent and 80 percent more than the firms would have received had they been producing electricity, The Sunday Telegraph reports.
The major power line that prompted the temporary closure of the wind farms was only recently installed.
It became fully operational in 2018 and was built to help overcome the existing voltage cable from being overwhelmed by the sheer volume of electricity being brought onto the grid from onshore wind farms, especially during periods of strong winds.
The line was erected to help provide more capacity to transport green energy from onshore wind farms in Scotland to England and Wales but has been stricken with difficulties.
The last few weeks have seen a myriad of problems on the line, which started with a “trip” on January 10.
This prompted a number of wind farms to be asked to temporarily shut down as they were producing more energy than could be transported to consumers’ homes.
The following day, 50 wind farms were asked to stop producing electricity and were
handed a total of £2.5million in compensation to do so.
Last Wednesday, the figure scaled to £3.3million, paid by National grid’s Electricity System Operator (ESO) arm.
The line remained out of use this weekend.
Last month analysis by the Renewable Energy Foundation, a charity that monitors energy use, revealed that the operators of 86 wind farms in Britain were handed more than £136million last year – a new record.
The charity warned that consumers are having to cover the cost of the compensation payments.
Dr John Constable, REF’s director, which first exposed the scale of “constraint payments”, said: “The Scottish Government has permitted excessive and environmentally damaging growth in wind power north of the border which has put the electricity system under great strain and burdened English and Welsh consumers not only with constraint payments but also with the additional expense of a £1 billion interconnector that is itself proving unreliable.
“The environment and the consumer have been betrayed over and over again.”
The cost of shutting down wind farms prompted Viscount Ridley, the science writer and former businessman, to put down a series of questions in the House of Lords about the cost to taxpayers.
But a National Grid ESO spokesman insisted the cost of managing the amount of electricity in the grid amounted to just £1 of the average annual household bill of £554.”
The spokesman added: “The alternative to constraint payments is building more electricity transmission assets which are more costly, meaning consumers’ bills would rise.”
A National Grid spokesman confirmed that the link was “currently unavailable for service” while the cause of the outage was being investigated.
Luke Clark, director of strategic communications at RenewableUK, which represents green energy companies, said: “Since the turn of the year, wind energy has been the UK’s biggest source of electricity and would have provided more if the grid were operating at full power.
“Wind generators are compensated as being forced to stop generating because of grid failures means a significant loss of revenue.
“Bringing the Western Link fully back online as soon as possible is the best solution for renewable energy generators and consumers”.
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