Constraint Payments for Wind Turbines: A wind farce which must be brought to an end. Analysis by WEA and REF

Posted Category: Constraint Payments, Energy Security, News

Wind Energy’s Absurd Facebook posting, below, inspired by this letter from Lyndsey Ward in the John O’Groat Journal explains the disgraceful situation:

“When a truth bomb drops the ripples should spread out far  and wide. It is down to us, all of us who seek to expose the absurdity of wind, to make it happen.

Many are too feart to put their heads above the parapet and speak out against this farce of a wind policy but many more are now stepping up and asking the difficult questions the policy makers would prefer not to answer.

Let’s take the ludicrous constraints situation that we have in the UK – and most probably in most other countries. The figure paid out up until yesterday 10th January 2020 to wind operators, mainly Scottish, to turn their turbines off is £658,098,834. That is to not produce electricity. Not only do they get the money they might have received if their persnickety (good word!) turbines had actually produced electricity, and there is absolutely no way of knowing if they would or not but let’s pay them anyway, but they also get any lost subsidies refunded AND compensation. That is not the same as constraining off reliable generation that gets paid only for what they predictably would have produced and they refund the fuel not used back to the grid. It is because it is the most expensive to ask to shut down to protect an overloaded grid that wind is constrained off the least. If there was a level playing field you can bet that volatile wind would be turned off first. Trying to balance a grid with erratic gusty wind is an engineer’s nightmare.

Then we have the Forward Energy Trades – a sort of secret constraints – that the public pays for but is not allowed to know who is getting it because it is too ‘commercially sensitive’. We could hazard a guess as to which companies are in receipt of these secret payment to not generate as we are sure many others could. The behaviour of some wind abominations indicates they are being constrained off but they are not on the list in the public domain. We turbine watchers are not stupid.

So as we stumble blindly into 2020, another year and another decade, the constraints bill in TEN days has reached £8,593, 623. Nearly one million pounds a day.

What in the name of sanity is going on?

Well we mentioned a truth bomb at the beginning and here it is. A letter in a local paper printed in full with no editing has flushed the serious question out at last. Many have thought it, discussed it but we haven’t seen it published anywhere before – correct us if we are wrong.

Here in Scotland we have regularly asked ourselves and each other why SSE and Spanish owned Scottish Power Renewables have so many wind developments. How they seem to get nearly all through planning. How they are often ones with the greatest numbers of turbines. How they apply to extend and extend them again even though the originals are regularly paid to switch off. How something like the abomination that was Stronelairg in the hills above Loch Ness was approved in an area that was somehow left off the Wild Lands Area map, yet surrounded by WLAs, and, therefore, had no protection whatsoever from industrial development. Despite a valiant attempt by the John Muir Trust the Scottish court came down in favour of the Scottish Government ministers who approved this environmental vandalism and SSE who had applied to build 66 turbines in the now violated Monadhliath Mountains.

We see SPR snorting up around a fifth of all constraints in the public domain in Scotland for just ONE wind development – Whitelee.

We read that SSE and SPR are both just too vocal in their demands for more public money to be thrown at onshore wind – we suspect more than any other developers. These two companies of all companies should know the grid in Scotland simply cannot cope with more turbines connected to it yet, bizarrely, they want to get more approved to go on it, why?

The answer our friends is certainly appearing to blow in the wind.

SSE and SPR operate the Scottish electricity grid. Broadly speaking it is SSE in the north and SPR the south.

We will leave it there.

Draw your own conclusions and ask your elected representatives what the hell is going on and why your money is being abused in this way when our services can’t cope, our hospitals are in crisis, fuel poverty is on the increase, our environment is being torn up and our wildlife butchered.

“Toot toot” the constraints gravy train really has left the station.

Well said Lyndsey and well done to the John O’Groat Journal for having the cojones to publish her letter in full yesterday.

The text is below as sometimes these press cuttings are hard to read on some devices. We can’t always do it but when a writer responds to our request to supply the text we will reprise it in the intro.”

“WIND FARCE MUST BE BOUGHT TO AN END

Sir

Constraints payments to mainly Scottish wind operators to not generate hit £649,573,357 as we entered 2020 and we have to wonder what buffoon thought it was a good idea to flood the grid with volatile wind energy and charge the already financially burdened consumer for the resulting difficulty in managing it.
Cue UK energy ministers starting with Labour’s hapless Ed Milliband who dreamed up the catastrophic ‘Connect and Manage’ system after pressure from the wind industry, outraged because the National Grid was quite reasonably refusing to connect their turbines to the grid until it could cope with the energy produced. The following coalition government implemented the scheme without understanding the appallingly consequences of it and ‘toot toot’ the constraints gravy train left the station.
Non engineering savvy policy makers allowed industrial wind development to rampage almost unabated across our country. Once planning is granted a bizarre promise of connection to the grid is made, no matter how many miles it may be, how much damage is done to the environment or whether the infrastructure can actually cope. Following Milliband’s ‘cunning windy plan’ energy ministers in Westminster and Holyrood continued with the buffoonery instead of using a wee bit of common sense and calling a halt to this insane, expensive and destructive arrangement.

Spanish Scottish Power Renewables manage the Scottish grid with SSE and benefits by around 20% of the figure paid out in Scotland for just Whitelee windfarm on its own. Both these companies are clamouring for more public money for yet more turbines – many of which will be paid to switch off to protect the grid almost as soon as installed. There is no economic sense in allowing more development – not for consumers anyway. Nor is there any benefit to the environment.

We continue to watch in horror as our landscapes are concreted over, CO2 absorbing trees are hacked down, carbon holding peat lands ripped up and our wildlife displaced or risking life and wing flying through the rotating bird shredders. Our electricity bills continue to rise despite being told wind is getting ‘cheaper’ which suggests this consumer backed industry is increasing its profits and delighting its shareholders.
The wind operators are gobbling up public money faster than their turbines are providing useable energy and we can only hope that the new UK government will put an end to this wind farce once and for all because there is no point hoping that Scotland’s energy minister, Paul Wheelhouse, or the Scottish Government will come to their senses anytime soon. Lyndsey Ward”

A Decade of Constraint Payments by Lee Maroney

This REF Blog gives a very detailed description of how constraints have gone and is a very useful resource.

Click here to see the full analysis of constraint payments by the Renewable Energy Foundation 

“2019 was the tenth year in which British wind farms have received constraint payments to reduce their output because of electricity grid congestion. There has been a total of £649 million paid out over the decade for discarding 8.7 TWh of electricity…….”                                Figure 3 with an animated map of constraints around Scotland is a great visualisation of the problem.

Mark Macaskill covered this story in the Sunday Times on 29th Decenber 2019 “Turbines spread amid £127m. bill”

“Scottish wind farms are the main beneficiary of compensation as the network is unable to cope with the power produced

Scottish ministers have been accused of an “irresponsible” dash for green energy as new data reveals that wind farms have expanded while being paid record sums of money to power down turbines. This year, the operators of 86 wind farms across Britain were handed more than £136m in constraint payments to reduce output and discard surplus energy, a new annual record and £12m more than was paid in 2018. Most of the compensation (E127m) was paid to Scottish onshore wind farms, including several that have either extended in recent years – with the Scottish government’s approval – or are seeking permission to do so. The disclosure has prompted disquiet among opposition politicians and environmentalists who said compensation payouts should be a key consideration in whether to allow wind farms to be built or extended. Energy firms are compensated for turning off turbines when the network is unable to cope with the power they produce. Such constraint payments are paid out by the National Grid but ultimately charged to consumers and added to electricity bills. Analysis carried out by the Renewable Energy Foundation, a charity that monitors Britain’s energy use, shows that in 2019, six onshore Scottish wind farms received about 50% of the £127m bonanza. They include Fallago Rig in Berwickshire, which received £7.8m in constraints this year, yet is seeking an extension to add a further 12 turbines. The Clyde wind farm was completed in 2009 but permission to extend the site with an additional 74 turbines was granted in 2014 and completed in 2017. Its operators, which includes the energy giant SSE, received almost £15m in compensation this year. The big six also includes the 96-turbine Kilgallioch wind farm in South Ayrshire, which was extended in 2017. Its owners, Scottish Power Renewables, is seeking to extend the site by up to 11 turbines. Whitelee, Europe’s largest wind farm, opened in 2007 and added a further 75 turbines five years later. Since 2013, it has received £106.5m in constraint payments, including £12m this year. The Stronelairg wind farm near Fort Augustus went live a year ago and received more than £llm in constraint payments this year. Critics have questioned the wisdom of proposals to build two neighbouring wind farms. “The probability of constraint payments is not given any significant weight in the planning system when considering applications for new or extended wind farms, with the result that the Scottish government is needlessly, and some will feel irresponsibly, contributing to the constraint problem and to UK consumer bills,” observed Helen McDade, the Renewable Energy Foundation’s Scottish policy adviser. Alexander Burnett, the Scottish Conservative energy spokesman, said: “The fact that the SNP are still allowing wind-farms to expand despite this staggeringly high level of constraint payments already in operation is astonishing. Indeed, this absurd situation simply demonstrates the foolishness of the SNP’s renewable energy policy.” Since 2010, when constraint payments were introduced, more than £600m has been paid to Scottish wind farm owners. Because of a rapid growth in onshore wind, payments have increased steadily, in spite of grid reinforcements and upgrades such as the Elbn Western Link between Hunterston and Deeside, which was built to export Scottish power. The foundation claims that some wind farms lie behind grid bottlenecks, yet are given ministerial approval for upgrades to generate more power. The charity points to increases in turbine heights at the extension to the Gor-donbush wind farm, near Brora in Sutherland. The original wind farm has been paid more than £16m to reduce output since it was commissioned in 2012. Paul Wheelhouse, the energy minister, said constraint payments will fall as investment in the grid increases. “Adding more demand load onto the grid, as we electrify Scotland’s own transport and heating systems, will also reduce the need for constraint payments. The importance of continued grid investment to facilitate transmission cannot be over-stated and this need featured in our Networks Vision Statement which we published earlier this year”.

 

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