What you need to know about Eskom’s newest R25 billion power plant

 ·13 Jun 2016

As temperatures across South Africa plummeted over the weekend, power utility Eskom linked up the first of four units at its Ingula power plant on Friday.

The company announced on Monday (13 June 2016), that unit four of the hydro-powered Ingula plant in Kwazulu Natal, has added 333 megawatts (MW) to the grid.

Reuters reported that construction on the R25 billion ($1.65 billion) plant began in 2006 and all four units are expected to be fully operational in 2017 to produce 1,332 MW.

“It is the first of four units to commercially support the national grid ahead of schedule, powering South Africa into the future,” the power utility said.

All four of Ingula’s units are scheduled for commercial operation in 2017.  “Thanks to the hard work and drive of the Ingula Team, Unit 4 was brought forward ahead of the 2017 schedule,” Eskom said.

Unit 4 was synchronized to the national grid on 25 March 2016 and has been undergoing optimisation whilst supporting the national grid.

Optimisation is a process whereby, after synchronisation, certain tests need to be conducted to ensure that the unit performs as per design specifications.

Additional information on Ingula:

  • Ingula’s four units are located 350 metres underground in the world’s largest machine hall in mud-rock.
  • To turn the more than 500 ton rotating mass of the Generator Rotor and Turbine, water is released from Ingula’s upper dam, Bedford Dam, situated 460 m higher and two kilometres away.
  • Water flows at high speeds down to the turbines at around 60km per hour with enough water passing through each turbine to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool in six seconds.
  • Rotating at 428 revolutions per minute, each unit will produce 333MW, a total for the station of 1 332MW.
  • On completion of all 4 units, Ingula will be part of Eskom’s Peaking fleet of power stations.  It can respond to demand increases on the National Grid within two-and-a-half minutes.
  • Upon completion Ingula will be Africa’s newest and largest pumped storage scheme and the 19th largest in the world.

Ingula unit 3 is currently under repair based on an incident that was experienced during the optimization process, post synchronisation.  This unit was synchronised to the National Grid on 6 March 2016 and supported the Grid until 6 April 2016 when the incident occurred.

Ingula unit 2 was synchronized to the National Grid on 22 May 2016 and is under optimisation.

Ingula unit 1 is still under construction. Ingula units 3, 2 and 1 are on track for commercial operation in 2017, Eskom said.

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