Unit 3 of State-owned Eskom's Ingula pumped-storage scheme was synchronised to the national power grid at the weekend, a year ahead of schedule.
Speaking at a media briefing on Thursday, Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown said an additional 330 MW of capacity would be available to the grid, as commissioning progressed towards the unit's full commercial operation in January 2017.
The Ingula pumped-storage scheme comprises the upper Bedford dam and the lower Braamhoek dam. They are 4.6 km apart and connected by waterway tunnels.
Unit 3 was the first of four units to be connected to the national grid. Once completed, the four units would produce a combined 1 332 MW.
Eskom CEO Brian Molefe described the synchronisation of Unit 3 as a critical milestone in the utility’s effort to build new generating capacity to meet South Africa’s rising electricity demand.
"The testing before synchronisation of Unit 4 has already started. The major construction work on both Unit 2 and Unit 1 has also been completed, and work on the outstanding electrical cabling and pipework is being accelerated," added Brown.
“Once completed in the next five years, our capacity expansion programme will increase our generation capacity by 17 384 MW, transmission lines by 9 756 km and substation capacity by 42 470 MVA.
“This will enable us to provide security of electricity supply to South African homes and businesses, powering economic expansion and extending electricity to millions of households who currently rely on other fuel sources for domestic cooking and heating,” said Molefe.
Since inception in 2005, the capacity expansion programme had resulted in the addition of 7 031 MW of generation capacity, 6 048 km of transmission lines and 31 590 MVA of substation capacity.
Eskom continued to execute its build programme, which would add much-needed power generation capacity to support South Africa’s economic growth.
Factory acceptance tests were successfully completed at Unit 1 of the Kusile power station in February, an important milestone towards the synchronisation of the unit. The unit was expected to be commercially operational in July 2018.
Meanwhile, factory acceptance tests were completed at Medupi’s Unit 5 in December last year, with the unit to come into full commercial operation by March 2018.
Last week, Eskom’s generation capacity reached 35 819 MW for the first time in over 18 months.
"The last time we hit 35 000 MW was in September 2014. The improved plant performance and more effective maintenance has resulted in lower unplanned outages. The power system has been stable since August 2015, resulting in seven months of no load-shedding. Our prognosis is that there will be no load-shedding for summer, autumn and going into winter,” Molefe said.