Eskom has reached “commercial operation status” of its final generation unit at Medupi, one of the world’s largest coal-fired power stations – and likely one of the last of its scale to be constructed as the world moves to more sustainable energy sources.
The giant, 4.8GW power station, which has taken years longer to build than originally planned, has seen the last of its six production units handed over to Eskom’s generation division.
The project has been marred in controversy, not least because its cost has ballooned from an estimated R80-billion in late 2007 to more than R250-billion today. Eskom said on Monday that the capital cost of the project is R122-billion so far and that it expects to spend in total as much as R135-billion on completion of balance of the plant.
Defects in the construction work, coupled with violent labour disputes and illegal strikes, served to delay the project. There was also controversy over the ANC’s shareholding in of the suppliers.
Construction of the power station, located outside the town of Lephalale in Limpopo, began 14 years ago. It has a planned operational lifespan of 50 years.
“Unit 1 commercial operation is a historic milestone as it signifies the completion of construction,” said Bheki Nxumalo, group executive for Eskom’s group capital division, in a statement.
“The unit was officially declared commercial after the completion of the unit optimisation and control demonstration as well as the 72-hour and the 30-day reliability run, which have put all performance guarantees to effect,” Eskom said.
“Unit 1 was first synchronised to the national grid on 27 August 2019 and reached the full load of 794MW on 5 December 2019. During this testing and optimisation phase, Unit 1 contributed intermittent power to the country’s electricity supply.”
The first unit at Medupi to achieve commercial operation status was Unit 6, in August 2015. “Over the following six years, four other units were built and brought to commercial status, providing electricity to the national grid,” Eskom said.
Medupi uses direct dry-cooling systems due to the water scarcity in the Lephalale area and is the fourth largest coal-fired plant and the largest dry-cooled power station in the world.
“The power plant incorporates ‘super-critical technology’, which is able to operate at higher temperatures than Eskom’s earlier generation of boilers and turbines. Importantly, the technology enables the power plant to operate with greater efficiency, resulting in better use of natural resources such as water and coal, and will have improved environmental performance,” said Eskom.
Said Nxumalo: “What remains for the Medupi project is the last part of implementing the agreed technical solutions related to the boiler design defects on the balance of plant. Once these repairs are completed during the next 24 months, Medupi will reliably deliver power to the national grid at full capacity, helping increase energy security for the country.” — © 2021 NewsCentral Media