Official figures disclosed that 17 operators were paid almost £7 million for shutting down their farms on almost 40 occasions between January and mid-September. Continuing to make payments at that rate would lead to householders paying out £9.9 million in 2011 for operators to disconnect their turbines from the National Grid.
The scale of the payments triggered a review of the rules on so-called constraint payments. The payments are made when too much electricity floods the grid, with the network unable to absorb any excess power generated. The money is ultimately added on to household bills and paid for by consumers.
Last year, only £176,788 of such payments were made, but changes in the way the National Grid, which supplies energy to retail companies, “balances” the electricity network have meant a huge expansion in their use.
The rules meant that some renewable energy companies were paid more to switch off their turbines than they would have received from ordinary operations.
In September, it was disclosed that £1.2 million would go to a Norwegian company that owned 60 turbines in the Scottish Borders, thanks to a period of unusually high wind during the spring. Because of the rising cost, the National Grid “balancing” system could now be overhauled to reduce the use of constraint payments.