Wind farms in Britain were paid a record £.9.3m to switch off their turbines on Friday, The Telegraph can disclose.
More than 80 plants across England and Scotland were handed the so-called ‘constraint payments’, when supply outstrips demand, by National Grid, as thousands of buildings lying empty following the coronavirus lockdown contributed to a nosedive in demand for energy.
In what has been declared a “national embarrassment” and a power management “disgrace” by campaigners, consumers will ultimately foot the bill of £6.9m to 66 Scottish plants and £1.9m to 14 offshore plants in England.
This is almost double the previous single day record payout to wind farm operators, which was £4.8m on Oct 8, 2018, when turbines were switched off because it became too windy.
It is believed the low demand for electricity on May 22 was due to windy and sunny weather this week, with solar panels likely to have produced a lot of energy, combined with the lack of demand for power given the Covid-19 lockdown which has seen many businesses close.
So worrying was the development that National Grid issued an alert to stop it happening for a second day running.
Dr John Constable, director of the Renewable Energy Foundation, a UK charity that monitors energy use, said: “Overdeployment of renewables in the UK, particularly uncontrollable wind and solar, has resulted in a very fragile electricity system, which is inflexible and unable to deal with accidents and unexpected circumstances at a reasonable cost to consumers.
“Grid balancing expenditure so far this year is already horrific and by the end of the summer it will be terrifying.
“This is a national embarrassment and a disgrace to the management of the electricity sector who have complacently allowed this crisis to develop over the last decade.”
The charity previously revealed that the operators of 86 wind farms in Britain were handed a record of more than £136m in constraint payments last year.
RenewableUK’s director of strategic communications, Luke Clark, said: “Wind is one of the UK’s biggest power sources, generating 30 per cent of our electricity in the first quarter of this year.
“Investing in new grid infrastructure is vital so that renewable generators can continue to provide consumers with the massive quantities of cheap electricity we need to achieve net zero emissions.
“Constraint payments are the cheapest way for National Grid to run the electricity network within its current limits.
“All types of generation, including fossil fuels, receive them, but unlike older technologies, wind farms can turn off or on within a matter of seconds, and so wind is often called on by National Grid to vary its output. So it’s actually the best way to keep bills as low as possible.”
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