The growing popularity of solar power for households and businesses is expected to lead to an energy surplus that could see UK wind farms asked to turn off their turbines this summer.
Operators would be paid by the National Grid to put generation on hold as it attempts to balance the supply of energy with the lower demand which is forecast for the hotter months.
The prediction of a season of record-low demand, made in the grid’s annual summer outlook report, which assesses the country’s likely energy needs for the coming months, is because of the number of households and businesses installing rooftop panels and solar farms.
“With falling minimum demands on the transmission system, we anticipate there may be times this summer when there is more generation on the system than is needed,” said the report.
“Some flexible wind generation will need to be curtailed this summer during periods of minimum demand to help us balance the system.”
The cost of paying generators to switch off would be ultimately passed on through customer bills.
The operators of Greater Gabbard, East Anglia’s biggest operational wind farm, said it was the grid’s responsibility to balance supply and demand.
Stephen Rose, head of wind generation at operator SSE, added: “As a wind farm operator we would not comment on the reasons for any potential curtailment.”
The National Grid expects the minimum daytime demand to fall from 22.7GW last year to 20.8GW this year. Solar panel capacity grew from 9.3GW to 11.7GW in the year to February 2017.
James Groves, of Norwich-based energy consultancy Indigo Swan, said solar uptake was exacerbating the imbalance, by producing large amounts of electricity when demand is lower.
“This forecast surplus means we may have to pay some intensive electricity users to change their processes to absorb some of this surplus or pay generators to not produce,” he said.
“The growth of solar power generation is due to the subsidies paid to generators, the cost of which is then passed on to all consumers in the form of higher bills. Measures have been taken to make such projects less appealing and so address what will be a growing issue, as our annual electricity demand continues to slide but the installation of solar panels continues.”