Scottish Scandal: Government Squanders £600 Million on ‘Constraint Payments’ to Wind Power Outfits for Discarded Power

Electricity that can’t be delivered as and when it’s needed has no commercial value. Indeed, when the gales rip across the Scottish Highlands and there’s a surfeit of wind power generated, that electricity can’t even be given away. Instead, taxpayers become the ‘buyers’ of last resort; not that they could never be called willing purchasers, and not that any power ever gets delivered to them, or anyone else.

Euphemistically called “constraint payments”, European governments are squandering hundreds of millions of taxpayers’ dollars each year, directing it to wind power outfits, literally paying them to NOT generate electricity, simply because the (wholly weather-dependent) supply they occasionally generate is incapable of matching (wholly human-dependent) demand.

In Scotland alone, since 2010 taxpayers have transferred more than £600 million to Scottish wind power outfits, with the result that around 8.2 TWh of Scottish wind power has been discarded, a quantity that would have supplied the annual needs of about 2 million households.

Notwithstanding that there is absolutely no market for it, Nicola Sturgeon’s wind power obsessed SNP keeps doubling down on the debacle, placing the normally parsimonious Scots on the hook for hundreds of £millions more to be wasted on wind power which has (and has never had) any natural commercial value.

Gordonbush Wind Farm Extension: Environmental and Economic Downsides
Michael Kelly
28 November 2019

The Scottish Government has recently approved increases in turbine heights – now set to reach 150 metres (490 feet) to blade tip – at the extension to the Gordonbush wind farm in the far north of Scotland, near Brora in Sutherland. The approval brings many significant public interest questions into the spotlight.

The Gordonbush wind farm is notorious for its impact on wildlife in the area, particularly Golden Plover.

A study by the RSPB found that “numbers of the plover, which are protected under the European Birds Directive, dropped by 80 per cent within the wind farm during the first two years of operation, with these declines being markedly greater than on areas surrounding the wind farm that were studied over the same period.”

The existing Gordonbush wind farm lies behind a grid bottleneck and has consequently been paid over £16.4 million to reduce output since it was commissioned in 2012. The 227.5 GWh of electrical energy discarded over that period is roughly equivalent to the annual consumption of over 50,000 Scottish households. (Wind farm constraint data is available on the Renewable Energy Foundation charity’s website.)

Typically, and Gordonbush is no exception, a wind farm makes more per unit of electricity constrained off the network than when selling normally to consumers. In the specific case of Gordonbush, when constrained off, the RO subsidy forgone is about £50 per MWh whereas the site owners charge over £70 per MWh for reducing output when constraints exist.

The volume of energy lost through constraints is in total significant, and in some periods can be very substantial as the following chart shows. In March 2014 a striking 49% of output was constrained off at a cost to the consumer of more than a million pounds. The annual constraints for Gordonbush peaked at 22% of potential output in 2015, and have been at 15–16% for the last two years.

It is important to note that the new £1 billion Western Link interconnector from Scotland to England which was built specifically to improve exports of Scottish wind power has not prevented nearly 20% of Gordonbush’s potential output being constrained off in September and October of 2019. It is not clear that the Western Link interconnector, and its implied standing charge on the consumer, estimated about approximately £50 million a year, is good value for money.

It seems that locating a wind farm at Gordonbush was not clearly in either the public or the environmental interest. The decision to extend and now permit still larger turbines will be very puzzling to many observers.

It is of course advantageous for the wind farm’s owners.  The addition of extra turbines to sites of this kind is clearly attractive for wind farm shareholders, and there are many such proposals in the offing around Scotland. However, the planning merits of these applications are dubious at best. Nevertheless, Gordonbush extension was consented, as was the application to vary that consent and install larger turbines.

There is clearly a pressing need for a transparent public debate about further expansion of wind power in Scotland. Since 2010, and at a cost of nearly £600 million, some 8.2 TWh of Scottish wind energy has been discarded, a quantity equivalent to the annual consumption of about 2 million households. The total in 2019 so far is 1.6 TWh at a cost of £113 million. A record year seems likely, in spite of the presence of the new Western Link interconnector to England, which was meant to alleviate these costs.

One has to ask whether it is really on balance beneficial to add more wind farms in Scotland when the system cannot accommodate at reasonable cost the output of those already built.

About stopthesethings

We are a group of citizens concerned about the rapid spread of industrial wind power generation installations across Australia.


  1. The real reason why wind derived electricity is constrained is because of more than 10% of this junk electricity on the grid may collapse it – wind turbines are essentially wind-powered amplifiers of fossil generated firm power and will amplify the junk element just the same.
    More gas is burnt ’supporting’ wind generation than if the CCGTs were left alone to generate at maximum thermal efficiency

  2. Congratulations to the UK!

    Democracy lives to fight another day.

    First time I’ve ever completed a proxy vote! I wonder how many there were of us?

    And to Labour. What were you thinking? I knew it was all over, from the moment ‘Baldrick’ started to back away!

    To Queen and Country, I say this.

    Don’t forget the Commonwealth!

    And to Scotland, I say NO.

  3. Let’s assume I produce mobile phones. If I produce less than the market demands, I leave valuable market demand unsatisfied and I am not making as much money as I could. Or I produce too many items or a model that does not sell – I will lose my shirts. That’s the basic law of demand. Potential production is less than worthless. But renewable advocates never show this when they want to convince us that they produce the cheapest power. Constraint payments are a subsidy. Preferential grid access is a subsidy. At some point, it’s always the people who pay through rates and taxes. And that won’t go on forever. One day people’s patience will snap.

  4. Adding insult to injury, the latest huge windfarm to be consented near the far north coast, destroying the lives of a local community, will be supplying Norway via a cable.

    • Jacqueline Rovensky says:

      Here in Australia, both in WA and the NT there are proposals for massive plants to supply Singapore and maybe even Indonesia. One in WA is a hybrid of wind and solar near the coast the other in NT is solar is proposed for Tennant Creek which is probably closer to Alice Springs than Darwin or the coast line of WA/NT.
      Why are our countries being destroyed to provide power to distant neighbours – there is nothing in it for our communities but pain, destroyed environments, power shortages and excessive energy costs.
      As small as the island of Singapore is, it is a wealthy nation and has large land area neighbours, why aren’t they seeking permission to build projects on these lands – and as a payment help those countries to install projects to provide energy for their people.
      For those proposed here in Australia the answer is simple, building here they will get subsidies from our Governments who source their income from taxing us – our Public Purse it seems is available to anyone to suck dry.
      As for Scotland supplying Norway, why aren’t they sourcing it from Denmark, I would have thought Denmark would be able to supply a link between the rest of Europe and Norway for energy supply. Also Norway has more land than Scotland 80,240sqkm and Norway 307,1142sqkm to cover with these things if they want ‘renewable’ energy.
      A bigger mess could never have been dreamt up by horror movie writers.

  5. Reblogged this on Dreaming 🐦 Freedom.

  6. Constraint payments – the new ‘subsidy’. This year alone, as at 9/12/19 were pushing £132 million, already more than last year. And still the applications and the approvals keep coming.

    It should be remembered that these are only the constraint payments we know about, under the Balancing Mechanism. There is a raft of other ‘secret’ ones about which we are not told, even though we pay.

    The salient point here is that all consumers across the UK pay for the wind profligacy of the Scottish Government. It was stated by the then Energy Minister Ed Davey that in the event of Scottish independence, the payments would fall to the 8% of Scottish consumers and not, as now, to the 92% of the rest of the UK.

  7. Reblogged this on Climate-

  8. Richard Mann says:

    Regardless of our views on climate change (the role of C02 and man-made emissions part of that), current mitigation strategies, wind turbines and solar panels, are not fit for purpose (cost effective C02 reduction). Please see the following from Ontario Society of Professional Engineers (OSPE), those responsible for the generation, distribution and billing of electricity in Ontario, Canada. Please see comments following article. Our government refuses to listen to Engineers’ expertise in this area.

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