All revved up and nowhere to go

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Wind energy companies are in Ann Thomas’ sights this week – and in particular the ‘constraint payments’ made when operators are asked to stop turbines from turning.

When very strong winds hit, turbines sometimes need to be shut off for safety.

But there are times when wind energy is not required – for fairly complex reasons involving the National Grid’s ‘Balancing Mechanism’, which continually matches supply and demand, and constraints in the distribution system – and it is at these times that constraint payments are made.

According to the Renewable Energy Foundation, in September alone more than £28 million in constraint payments was paid to wind farm operators in the UK.

There is no doubt wind generation forms an important part of the electricity generation jigsaw as the push intensifies for greener energy, but some are concerned at the impact on our landscape. The fear, as Ann points out, is that we will end up with ‘hedgehog’ views, skylines pricked by wind turbines in scenic areas.

Some mind them, some don’t. But they appear to be here for the foreseeable future.