Early plans have been submitted to build a windfarm in Caithness which has been criticised for its potential to increase consumers’ electricity bills.
E-on has proposed the Camster II windfarm which would have 14 turbines, standing up to 415ft tall, to be built about 4.4 miles south-west of Wick and generate up to 48.3 megawatts (MW). Plans are in their scoping stages.
But Caithness-based industry watcher Stuart Young pointed out that nearly £473,000 was paid to E-on between March and August last year, the latest figures obtained from the Renewable Energy Foundation, to compensate the company for the times it shut down its operational 25-turbine Camster windfarm.
These so-called “constraint payments” are frequently awarded for switching off turbines to avoid overloading the national grid.
Constrained off oil, gas or coal generators are paid for the loss of sale of electricity for shutting down, but they give the national grid a rebate for the saving on fuel. However, constrained off wind generators lose both the sale of electricity and their subsidy, and compensation is more expensive.
Mr Young says that, in practice, wind is only constrained off if the national grid has to deal with excess generation and has exhausted all cheaper options, putting wind generators in a strong negotiating position.
He added: “The point is that Camster I can’t sell its electricity and gets paid over the odds. So how is Camster II a good idea? It’s not needed and not wanted and the costs simply get put onto the consumer.”
E-on submitted a scoping report in 2013 for the proposed development to Scottish Ministers for up to 55 turbines. However, this was put on hold and, in the interim, the company progressed its designs and decided to downsize the windfarm’s capacity.
The proposed Campster II development would be sited within the Achaim Forest, which is actively managed by Forestry Commission Scotland.
In its scoping report, the applicant has pledged to provide an equivalent of £5,000/MW of installed capacity per year as community funding over the operational life of the development.
An E-on spokeswoman said: “The recently submitted scoping report formally starts our extensive consultation process for our Camster II wind farm proposal.
“In the coming months we plan to hold a series of public events when we’ll be happy to discuss our plans. Details of these events will be released shortly and we encourage people to attend to find out more and meet members of the project team.”