CAMPAIGNERS have called for a moratorium on wind farm applications in the Highlands amid claims that millions of pounds has been paid out for them to be switched off over the past seven months.

Lyndsey Ward, an independent protestor against wind farms claimed that the Highland Council has commissioned studies to investigate if the area and Easter Ross are able to accommodate more wind farm development.

Her view is backed by Stuart Young of the Caithness Wind Farm Information Forum. He has carried out research which claims to show that since April 1 windfarm operators have been paid £7.7million by the National Grid in constraint payments so they do not to generate power.

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Ms Ward, an independent campaigner, told members of the Highland Council's two planning committees: "Surely the sensible approach would be for Highland Council to follow other councils and call for a moratorium to halt all further applications until these studies are completed."

Mr Young added that the proliferation of wind farm plans particularly for Caithness is reaching crisis point.

He has studied the payments made by the National Grid to wind farms to shut down and calculated the constraint payments from figures published by the regulator Ofgem.

These show £19 million paid to Highland wind farms since April 2010, and £7.7m has been paid out since April 1.

Wind farm operators are asked to shut down when demand is low and wind output is high as it could threaten the stability of the grid. The National Grid can also make these constraint payments if some parts of the network are taken out of service to allow maintenance and repair.

Mr Young said that Caithness is already a wind farm landscape, adding: "All the bold rhetoric about 'only in the best places' has failed. It is only rhetoric."

The campaigner added that rules and guidelines are a moving target which will never be cast in stone as long as the present Scottish Government is in power. It is difficult to move around Caithness without a wind farm in sight whenever a long view is available.

He lists the proposals for three turbines at Upper Smerral, four at Barrock, 10 near Lyth and 24 at Limekiln which are awaiting determination. He went on to list many more including 10 at Brabster, 12 at Cogle Moss, 13 near Lybster, 13 at Earl's Cairn, 20 at Camster Forest, 20 at Broubster and 55 at Camster II in scoping (numbers in scoping are maximum). There are also numerous single or two-turbine proposals at both stages all over the county.

Mr Young told councillors: "We ask you to demand a moratorium on all wind farm development of any size in Highlands until a viable, sensible planning policy is complete and in place."

David Alston, deputy leader of the Highland Council and leader of the Liberal Democrat group, said: "The appropriate development of renewable energy, including onshore wind turbines, would undoubtedly have been more straightforward if there had been clearer national guidelines and policies from the start."

The Scottish Government is committed to providing more than 30% of Scotland's energy needs by 2020 from renewable sources.

Last year the Scottish Government refused Moray Council permission to impose a moratorium while it updated its planning policy, despite councillors unanimously backing the call.

Meanwhile, Scotland's Energy Minister, Fergus Ewing, has warned that the UK Government's Electricity Market Reform proposals could undermine Scotland's renewables sector and supply chain, while threatening security of supply across the UK.

He said this would lead to further price increases.

In a letter to his opposite number in the Coalition Government, Ed Davey, Mr Ewing highlighted the threat which the proposals pose to Scotland and the UK's renewables ambitions.

He said it extends to concerns, also raised by Ofgem and the National Grid, about the tightening gap between maximum generating capacity and peak electricity demand across the UK. It also covered the need to preserve thermal generation in Scotland to help keep the UK's lights on, the Holyrood minister added.

Mr Ewing has challenged Mr Davey to explain a last minute amendment to the UK Energy Bill that will remove the Scottish Government's existing powers over support for renewable technologies across Scotland.