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Sutherland windfarm operators paid a total of £63m to turn off turbines

The operators of windfarms in Sutherland have been paid a whopping £63,475,000 in total during the last 10 years for turning their turbines off at times of grid congestion. it has emerged.

The figure has been compiled from data collated by registered charity the Renewable Energy Foundation (REF).

Brenda Herrick of the Caithness Windfarm Information Forum has said she is shocked at the extent of the payment, which is met by customers through their electricity bills, as are community benefit payments.

She said: “I was pretty horrified when I saw the total. It is just unbelievable the fact that we are paying such a huge amount for windfarms to switch off and yet we keep building more.

“What is the point of building windfarms in a remote area like Sutherland, so far from where the electricity is needed?”

According to the Renewable Energy Foundation, so-called ‘constraints payments’ began to be paid out in 2010 and are made when wind power in Scotland exceeds local demand but cannot be exported to England due to insufficient grid infrastructure.

REF’s website states: “There has been a total of £649 million paid out over the decade for discarding 8.7 terrawatt hours of electricity.

“To put this in context, this quantity of energy would be sufficient to provide 90 per cent of all Scottish households with electricity for a year.”

The REF has revealed that January and February this year saw an “extreme spike” in constraint payments to Scottish windfarms when £69 million was put onto consumer bills at an average rate of more than £1 million a day.

This has been put down in part to the failure of the ‘Western Link’, a new subsea cable running from Hunterston to Deeside.

According to Ms Herrick, the main recipients of constraints payments in Sutherland are SSE, which operates Strathy North and Gordonbush windfarms; Scottish Power Renewables, operator of Beinn Tharsuinn and Falck, operator of Kilbraur.

Work is currently under way to add an11 turbine extension to the 35 turbine Gordonbush windfarm, at StrathBrora. The new turbines measure 149.9 metres to blade tip.

REF states on its website: “The existing Gordonbush wind farm lies behind a grid bottleneck and has consequently been paid over £16.4 million to reduce output since it was commissioned in 2012. The 227.5 GWh of electrical energy discarded over that period is roughly equivalent to the annual consumption of over 50,000 Scottish households.”