A wind farm has been paid £1.2 million not to produce electricity for eight-and-a-half hours.
By Edward Malnick and Robert Mendick
9:00PM BST 17 Sep 2011
The amount is ten times greater than the wind farm’s owners would have received had they actually generated any electricity.
The disclosure exposes the bizarre workings of Britain’s electricity supply, prompting calls last night for an official investigation into the payments system.
The £1.2 million will go to a Norwegian company which owns 60 turbines in the Scottish Borders.
The National Grid asked the company, Fred Olsen Renewables, to shut down its Crystal Rig II wind farm last Saturday for a little over eight hours amid fears the electricity network would become overloaded.
The problem was caused by high winds buffeting the country in the wake of Hurricane Katia.
In total, 11 wind farms were closed down last week, receiving a total of £2.6 million. The money – detailed in calculations provided by National Grid – will be added on to household bills and paid for by consumers.
As Britain pushes for more and more wind farms, critics claim the size of the ‘constraint payments’ will grow accordingly – raising serious concern about the long-term suitability of wind power to meet Britain’s energy needs.
Crystal Rig received by far the largest single payment because the National Grid runs an auction, inviting energy companies to say how much they want in compensation for switching off.
Crystal Rig’s owners asked for £999 per megawatt hour of energy they would have produced had they been switched on. Incredibly, the figure Crystal Rig had bid was accepted by the National Grid.
According to an analysis released on Friday, the trade group reports having its slowest quarter since 2007, adding just 395 megawatts of wind power capacity.
For the year to date, new installations were down 72 percent.
The reasons are many.
For starters, as any number of unemployed Americans can testify, the nation’s economic engines just aren’t humming like they used to, and that means less demand for electricity over all. Natural gas, the chief fossil-fuel competitor to renewable sources of electricity, is also dirt cheap these days, making wind power a tougher sell for cost-conscious utilities and state regulators.