Eskom is converting one of its oldest power stations into a major new solar and wind energy project

 ·31 Oct 2022

After serving South Africa since 1961, the coal-fired Komati Power Station in Mpumalanga has today (31 October) reached the end of its operating life and has been shut down from midday.

According to Eskom, unit 9 was commissioned in March 1966 – the last of nine units that were built. Other units were shut down over the years as they reached the end of their operating life, a legislated requirement.

“The shutting down of the plant will not have a significant impact on the national electricity grid as the remaining unit was only contributing 121MW,” Eskom said.

Eskom said it has transferred the majority of Komati employees from the power station to support and augment skills in other power stations and areas of the business in line with operational requirements, and as such, no Eskom employees will lose their jobs as a result of the closure.

Komati is one of the power stations that were previously mothballed due to the country’s excess generation capacity in the early 1980s, the age of the station and the high maintenance costs. Unit 9 was then mothballed in 1989.

Subsequently, a decision was made to return Komati Power Station to service, with the refurbishment commencing on 14 August 2006. Unit 9 was handed over to the Generation division on 24 December 2008 and declared commercial on 4 January 2009.

However, Eskom said that the end of Komati’s coal-fired journey “marks the beginning of another exciting journey in the service of South Africa”.

The group said that as part of a comprehensive Just Energy Transition (JET) Strategy – which places equal importance on the ‘transition to lower carbon technologies,’ – the remaining employees will take part in the Komati Repowering and Repurposing project.

The power plant will be converted into a renewable generation site powered with 150MW of solar, 70MW of wind and 150MW of storage batteries, thereby continuing to put the site and its associated transmission infrastructure into good use and providing economic opportunities to the community.

A containerised micro-grid assembly factory has already been established on-site, Eskom said.

“The development of the Komati Training Facility to facilitate the reskilling, retraining, and upskilling of Eskom employees and members of the community, as appropriate, is underway.

“Eskom has already signed a partnership agreement with the South African Renewable Energy Technology Centre (SARETEC) of the Cape Peninsula University of Technology and the Global Energy Alliance for People and Planet (GEAPP) to develop the training facility.”

The group said that funding for this facility has already been received from one of the developmental finance institutions (DFIs), and Eskom will make an official announcement in due course.

The Komati Repowering and Repurposing project is one of the largest coal-fired power plant decommissioning, repowering and repurposing projects globally and will serve as a global reference on how to transition fossil-fuel assets, it said.

Read: A look at Heineken’s massive new solar plant in South Africa – with 14,000 panels tracking the movement of the sun

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