Experts are warning that Britain's wind farms are over-producing energy, after National Grid was forced to pay £82 million to operators in December. Under current contractual arrangements, wind farm operators are paid to constrain their supplies when there's a risk of the energy network being overwhelmed, typically in periods of high wind. As a result, the public purse is paying private operators to turn off their turbines.
The £82 million cost comes after payments of £122 million paid out between January and November of 2022 and £1.34 trillion of payments spent to manage national supplies in 2021. The issue occurs with periods of high winds or storms, where wind turbines actually don't operate very well. During these times, the National Grid requests that producers stop or limit output to prevent power spikes.
The latest data on payments and operator constraints comes after reports that Britain hit new records for wind energy in December. On one single day, 21GW of power output was recorded for wind, a new standalone record that generated just over half of the UK's total energy needs.
A spokesman for NGESO said that the constraint payments were more economical than 'over-building' new infrastructure and putting new contracts in place.
The news of increased production will be positive for the government, which wants to hit 50GW of offshore wind power by the end of 2030 as part of its broader strategy for energy security. However, the prospect of ongoing constraint payments will be of concern, and the factor of wasted energy supplies will be a key consideration as the net zero debate continues. Experts have warned that there needs to be an acceleration of battery storage technology to better deal with peak production.