£125m blown away
Bonanza for firms paid to switch off turbines when it’s too windy
WIND farms were paid a record £125million last year to switch off turbines – because it was too windy.
In very windy conditions, the creaking National Grid cannot cope with the extra energy turbines produce, so firms get ‘constraint payments’ to temporarily shut them down.
National Grid figures show that constraint payments to UK wind farm operators hit £124.6million last year – 15 per cent more than the previous highest sum of £108.3million in 2017.
Most of last year’s constraint cash was handed to sites north of the Border.
John Constable, of the Renewable Energy Foundation (REF), which gathered the data, said the handouts raised questions about the Western Link, from Ayrshire to north Wales, constructed to export Scottish wind energy to the south and reduce constraint payments.
It entered service in October, almost three years late.
Mr Constable said: ‘In spite of the commissioning of the Western Link, constraints are continuing.
‘Payments in November and December were £9.1million and £10.4million respectively, compared with £9million and £8.3million for the same months in 2017.
‘Although it is too soon to say definitively, this is not encouraging as to the effectiveness of the interconnector.’
Mr Constable said the solution was to stop giving the handouts to wind farm firms. REF said Scottish wind farms discarded enough electricity last year to power 500,000 households for a year after being paid to shut down.
Scottish Tory energy spokesman Alexander Burnett said: ‘These figures undermine the case for any new [wind power] developments.
‘Scotland needs a balanced energy portfolio for those many, many days when the wind doesn’t blow and it is quite clear that the current SNP strategy is poor value for public money.’
Ofgem, the energy regulator, said investment in infrastructure such as the Western Link would help reduce constraints.
Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse said: ‘Constraint payments are made by National Grid, under a regulatory model determined by UK ministers.
‘In 2017, Scotland’s renewable electricity generators were able to meet the equivalent of a record 70.1 per cent of Scotland’s own electricity demand.
‘We will ensure strategic decisions support this valued sector.’
Comment – Page 16
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