Windfarms paid to halt production

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WHITELEE windfarm was paid £308,000 last month — to stop producing energy.

It was one of six Scottish turbine sites paid to stop because they were producing too much energy.

The Renewable Energy Foundation (REF) published research detailing the payments this week.

A ScottishPower Renewables spokesperson said: “The UK’s electricity system relies on a mixture of base load generation and other flexible forms of generation.

“For many years they have been used to balance supply and demand on the system and alleviate constraints relating to available capacity on the grid.

“Although we would always prefer to maximise production of renewable electricity from our windfarms, with the current grid infrastructure in the UK, it is important wind generators play their part in helping to manage constraints.

“ScottishPower Renewables has worked with National Grid to provide system balancing services from a small number of our wind farm sites recently”.

The six energy companies were paid £900,000 between them to halt turbines for several hours on April 5 and 6.

According to the REF research, the payments made cost up to 20 times the value of the electricity that would have been generated if the turbines had kept running.

Dr Lee Moroney, planning director for the REF, said: “The variability of wind power poses grid management problems for which there are no cheap solutions.

“In future we need greater electrical energy storage facilities and greater interconnection with our EU neighbours so that excess energy supplies can be sold or bought where required.

“However, throwing the energy away, and paying wind farms handsomely for doing so, is not only costly but obviously very wasteful”.

Last year it was revealed electricity customers are paying more than £1 billion a year to subsidise windfarms and other forms of renewable energy.

The proceeds of the levy, known as the Renewables Obligation (RO), are divided between the main renewable energy sources.

Wind receives 40 per cent, landfill gas 2%, biomass 20%, hydroelectric 12% and sewage gas 3%.

The National Grid fears on breezy summer nights, windfarms could actually cause a surge in the electricity supply which is not met by demand from businesses and households.

The electricity cannot be stored, so one solution is to switch off or reduce the power supplied.

On April 5 and 6 the network was overloaded because high winds and heavy rain in Scotland overnight produced more wind energy than it could use.

A transmission fault in the system meant the surplus energy could not be transferred to England and so generation had to be cut.