Boost for SA's electricity grid as second Kusile unit comes online

The second unit at Kusile power station in Mpumalanga is expected to contribute 800MW to the power grid.
The second unit at Kusile power station in Mpumalanga is expected to contribute 800MW to the power grid.
Image: Waldo Swiegers/Sunday Times.

SA's electricity supply is being bolstered by the Kusile power station's Unit 2 achieving full commercial operation on Thursday.

The unit at the plant, between eMalahleni and Delmas in Mpumalanga, now moves to being part of Eskom's generation fleet, contributing up to 800MW to the power grid, from project status where it has been tested over the past 16 months, said Eskom.

“The commercial operation of Unit 2 is a major milestone that signifies the progress being made by Eskom towards the completion of the Kusile build project, on which lie the nation’s best hopes to bring stability and ensure security of electricity supply to power the economy,” said Bheki Nxumalo, Eskom’s group executive for capital projects.

This becomes the second unit at Kusile to enter commercial operation, with Unit 4 having attained commercial operation status in 2017.

Eskom said the construction, testing and optimisation activities on the remaining four units, some of which are currently providing intermittent power to support the grid, is progressing well.

Commercial operation status ensures technical compliance to statutory, safety and legal requirements. “This significant and major milestone marks the contractual handover of the unit from the principal contractors under the group capital build project unit to the generation division.

“Eskom is proud of its team at Kusile who have delivered this second unit with extreme dedication, and working under challenging conditions during periods of load-shedding and the Covid-19 restrictions.”

Kusile is the first power station in SA and Africa to use wet flue gas desulphurisation (WFGD) technology, said Eskom.

“WFGD is state-of-the-art technology used to remove oxides of sulphur (SOx), for example, sulphur dioxide (SO2), from the exhaust flue gas in power plants that burn coal or oil. Eskom is fitting WFGD to the Kusile plant as an atmospheric emission abatement technology, in line with international practice, to ensure compliance with air quality standards.”

Eskom has not implemented rotational load-shedding since September as it has managed to meet SA’s electricity needs with minimal use of open-cycle gas turbines (OCGTs).

A week ago, Eskom CEO André de Ruyter said the utility was working hard to restore the security of energy supply for the country.

“Over the past eight months, we redoubled our efforts and commenced with the implementation of modifications to repairs to the design defects at Medupi and Kusile power stations, which is yielding the desired results and increasing available capacity for the system,” he said.

Eskom said it had focused on conducting reliability maintenance on the rest of the power stations, which was aimed at improving the performance of its ageing generation fleet.

“The reliability maintenance is in full swing, and the benefits of the work will start being felt by April 2021.

“We envision that we will have significantly reduced, but not eliminated, the risk of load-shedding by September next year,” De Ruyter said.

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