he Duke of Edinburgh once described them as “absolutely useless”, while the Prince of Wales believed them a “horrendous blot on the landscape”.
But offshore wind farms have at least one useful purpose, it has emerged: boosting the Crown Estate’s profits to a record £328.8m.
Wind farms were identified as a key driver in the record returns, making £27.7m and propelling the estate’s energy holdings to its best-performing sector with an 18pc increase in the past year to hit £1.1bn.
The £328.8m sum generated in 2016-17 is an 8.1pc rise from last year, meaning the Queen will receive £82.2m to fund her official work in the Sovereign Grant in two years’ time.
The figure will be a year-on-year increase of £6m, under a system which sees the bulk of Crown Estate profits paid to the Treasury.
A quarter is returned to the Queen’s household, two years in arrears, to be spent on official travel, household salaries, and, over the next 10 years, a major refurbishment of Buckingham Palace.
The Crown Estate has now paid more than £2.6bn to the country’s coffers in the last decade, thanks in part to large swathes of valuable London real estate.
Details of the royal accounts are published today as part of an annual report, which show the Queen’s official net expenditure increased by £2m to almost £42m, while the Royal Family’s official travel cost the taxpayer £4.5m: up £500,000 from last year.
Sir Alan Reid, Keeper of the Privy Purse, said When you look at these accounts the bottom line is the Sovereign Grant last year equated to 65 pence per person, per annum in the United Kingdom, that’s the price of a first-class stamp.
“Consider that against what the Queen does and represents for this country, I believe it represents excellent value for money.
Clarence House has also released its annual accounts, which showed the Prince of Wales’ income from his hereditary estate, the Duchy of Cornwall, has increased by 1.2pc to £20.7m.
The report hailed a record annual turnover for the Prince’s Duchy organic food range, now more than £200m.
The official activities of Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry are funded by the Duchy, listed in one lump sum under “Other Costs” and rising 8.6pc to £3.5m.
The Prince’s tax bill, which he pays voluntarily at a rate of 45pc, has decreased by 5.1pc to £4,757,000 in 2016-2017.
The accounts show that Royal travel costs totalled £4.5m, though aides pointed out that overseas trips are always carried out at the request of Government.
The most expensive trip was a £154,000 visit by the Prince of Wales to Romania and, with the Duchess of Cornwall, Italy and Austria; their first trip in the official Government jet nicknamed “Cam Force One” after the former Prime Minister.
The trip is part of what has become known as the Royals’ “Brexit tour” of Europe, with the Prince arriving in Romania on the day Article 50 was triggered.
Clive Alderton, the Prince’s principal private secretary, said: “I sense that personal connections, or what the jargon might call people-to-people links, will have a very important role to play in defining this new chapter in relations with our friends and neighbours around the world.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge made a £97,703 trip to India on a combination of scheduled and chartered flights, while Andrew, Duke of York, travelled to Mozambique and Botswana for £56,470.
The Sovereign Grant is significantly higher in the coming years than the £42.8m received in 2016-7, when it was calculated at 15pc of Crown Estate profits.
To help pay for a £369m refurbishment of Buckingham Palace, the proportion spent on the Royals will increase to 25pc between 2017 to 2027.
Repairs funded in the last year include £1.2m on replacing the doors of the Orangery at Windsor Castle, £500,000 refurbishing 30A St James’ Palace to use as office space or rent out, and £1.3m securing the opulent State Dining Room Ceiling at Buckingham Palace.
The major work is still in its planning stages.
Alison Nimmo, chief executive of the Crown Estate, said its performance reflected “years of disciplined market positioning in our chosen sectors”.
“For over a decade we’ve carefully timed our development pipeline, focussed on creating brilliant places in the best locations and maintained our active support of the UK’s world-leading offshore wind sector,” she said.