Mega hydropower station in South Africa begins operation

16 June 2016

Unit 4 of a mega hydropower station in South Africa has began operation after years of construction. South African power utility firm Eskom announced that unit 4 of Ingula power station has began commercial operation supplying 333MW of power to the national grid during peak times.

The mega hydropower station in South Africa which has been under construction for a decade is a peaking hydro power station meaning it can supply electricity during peak demand. The R25bn power project is situated between Ladysmith and Harrismith in the Little Drakensberg. The power station has been under construction since 2006 and is expected to be  fully operational in 2017. Eskom says It will be Africa’s newest and largest pumped storage scheme, and the 19th largest in the world.

Eskom’s Group Executive for Group Capital Abram Masango said he was confident that the unit will prove worthwhile in the efforts to provide power for the country. “Through this effort, Eskom’s New Build Programme is on track to deliver the much need capacity that South Africans require to grow the economy to ensure a better life for all,” he said.

Ingula’s four units are located 350m underground in the world’s largest machine hall in mud-rock. To turn the more than 500t rotating mass of the generator rotor and turbine, water is released from Ingula’s upper dam, Bedford Dam, situated 460m higher and 2km away.

Water flows at high speeds down to the turbines at around 60km/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 1,3GW.

Spanning across the KwaZulu Natal and the Free State Provinces, the Ingula plant commenced construction in 2006, with all four units expected to come online in 2017. Ingula unit 3 is currently under reconstruction, based on an incident experienced during the optimisation process post synchronization while unit 2 was synchronised to the grid on 22May and is under optimisation, while Ingula unit 1 is still under construction.

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