Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter reports that the tender evaluation for Phase 1 of the utility’s battery energy storage systems (BESS) project has been completed and that he expects the final approvals to be in place in February.
Speaking during a briefing on the state of the system on Thursday, De Ruyter expressed enthusiasm for the project, which he said would be the first large-scale deployment of grid-tied batteries in South Africa.
He added that he had been impressed by the quality of the bids and looked forward to the BESS projects being integrated into the network to help strengthen the grid “particularly for renewable energy” and to help the utility manage its “peaks and troughs”.
“We have received the bids, we have adjudicated the bids and we are now in the process of finalising the approval processes, which I expect to happen within the next month.”
A total of seven sites were tendered, in three works packages, including:
- a BESS with a minimum of 80 MW/320 MWh at Skaapvlei Substation, in Vredendal, in the Western Cape;
- an 83 MW/332 MWh system across sites in the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal; and
- a 34.5 MW/175 MWh BESS for sites in the Western Cape.
The BESS projects form part of a larger 360 MW/1 440 MWh, BESS programme, conceived in 2017 as a replacement for the 100 MW Kiwano concentrated solar power project, initially approved, but later abandoned, as part of the World Bank’s $3.75-billion 2010 loan to the State-owned utility.
“This is quite exciting and we are very impressed with the quality of the bids received and we look forward to switching those on,” De Ruyter enthused.
MPUMALANGA LAND RELEASE
Meanwhile, De Ruyter reported that progress was also being made to prepare a “package” through which Eskom would invite bids from private renewables developers to locate projects on portions of the 36 000 ha of Eskom land that is being made available in the grid-rich Mpumalanga province.
“We are delighted that [Public Enterprises] Minister Pravin Gordhan made this announcement, as we see it as an easy way to also make use of the 100 MW licensing dispensation announced by the President during the course of last year,” De Ruyter said.
Eskom's group executive for distribution Monde Bala, who is overseeing the initiative, said the first land leases should be approved by October, but that efforts were under way to expedite the timeline.
The land would be leased for renewable electricity generation by independent power producers.
The land release is intended to offer private generators immediate relief from the prevailing grid constraints and provide Eskom with more time to build new infrastructure to open up those areas of the country with the best wind and solar resources, including the Northern, Western and Eastern Cape provinces.
It is also designed to offer another platform to begin closing a 4 000 MW to 6 000 MW generation shortfall, which has made South Africa prone to load-shedding and left Eskom with little space to implement much-needed maintenance on its aged and increasingly unreliable coal fleet.