£1m to ‘switch off’ windfarms

Windfarm operators in Carrick have collected payments totalling over £1m this month alone as a result of turbines switching off.

Scotttish Power Renewables who operate the Arecleoch and Markhill windfarms near Barrhill and Scottish and Southern Energy who operate the Hadyard Hill windfarm near Dailly are paid constraint payments when output levels on the National Grid are deemed too high.

In this month so far Arecleoch’s payments have totalled £578,232, Hadyard Hill’s £358,957 and Markhill’s stand at £208,765 giving an extraordinary total of £1,145,954.

The figures are compiled by the Renewable Energy Foundation and their director John Constable said: “Constraint payments are in essence the outcome of a mistaken political determination to push ahead with wind power in Scotland well before the grid system could accomodate the energy at reasonable cost to the consumer. Errors of this kind are to be expected when climate policy is driven by arbitary targets, rather than long-term economic fundamentals.”

On Saturday December 5 all three windfarms output were deemed too high by the National Grid so they turned off.

Scottish Power were paid £132,650 in constraint payments for Arecleoch that day as well as £52,788 for Markhill whilst SSE received £65,206 for Hadyard Hill not operating.

On December 9 Scottish Power received £71,225 for Arecleoch not operating and £21,256 for Markhill’s switch off whilst £59,563 was paid to SSE for Hadyard Hill.

And on December 10 £50,130 was paid to Scottish Power Renewables for Arecleoch and they collected £13,782 for Markhill not operating. On that same day SSE also received £30,468 for Hadyard Hill being asked to turn off by the National Grid.

A Scottish Power Renewables spokesperson said: “Unfortunately we must comply with National Grid’s instructions to reduce output from time to time, to allow them to manage the electricity network.

“We would much prefer never to be constrained in this way and major grid upgrades such as the Western Link subsea interconnector, which is currently being constructed, will help.

“As an electricity generator we pay substantial annual fees to be allowed to connect to the electricity network, so when National Grid tell us that we can’t be connected for a period, we receive a payment.

“We have worked very closely with National Grid to understand their requirements, and this means that our compensation price is the cheapest in the industry.”

Jenny Hogan from industry body Scottish Renewables said: “Constraint payments are not a new phenomenon, or one restricted only to wind farms.

“They are a normal part of the overall efficient management of our electricity system, given the limitations of the UK’s aging energy infrastructure.

“National Grid pays a variety of technologies to reduce or increase output as required to help balance the system.

“Overall, delivering a modern electricity network capable of getting power generated to customers must be a priority over the coming years. However, in some cases constraints will be cheaper than further investment in the transmission network – the cost of which would be passed on to the consumer.”

The Gazette has regularly written about wind farm operators receiving substantial sums as a result of the grid turning off their turbines.

Earlier this year we revealed how SSE had collected £6.5m in payments since 2011 for Hadyard Hill as they were planning to build a further 31 turbines on the site.