24 August 2015
For the first time since construction began eight years ago, the Medupi Power Station in Limpopo is finally pumping power. The first unit of Medupi, unit six, was handed over to its operating division on Sunday, 23 August.
Unit six will feed 794 megawatts (MW) of power into the national grid. The unit has been online since March, but it has been undergoing testing for the past five months. The first unit was projected to go online in 2011.
Although unit six is pumping enough power to serve a city the size of Bloemfontein, Eskom spokesperson Khulu Phasiwe said that it did not mean the end of load shedding.
In an interview with eNews Africa Channel, Phasiwe said the unit would help Eskom to reduce the risk of load shedding; however, this did not mean load shedding would end. “In the past two weeks we have not had load shedding and the biggest contributor to this was the new unit and reduced consumption.”
The contractors had been working on unit six for the past seven years.
According to news reports, Medupi has been contributing almost 800MW to the power grid since March in an effort to alleviate load shedding. “This power is not a thoroughly new power per say. It is power that we have been using all along,” said Phasiwe.
On average, South Africa demanded 29 000MW, said Phasiwe. In its current state, Medupi takes national generation capacity from 42 800MW to 43 600MW.
Five more units still have to be brought online, each generating 794MW. Eskom plans to have all six units fully functional by 2019. Once complete, Medupi will be one of the biggest coal power stations in the world.
In July, City Press reported that the government estimated the overall cost of the station to be at least R105-billion. However, the newspaper added independent analysts believed the entire project would come up to R300-billion, which was 10 times the original amount when the contract for the power station was signed.
The Medupi site covers 883 hectares and the highest point of the plant, the chimneys, will reach 220m. When complete, Medupi will be the fourth-largest coal power station in the southern hemisphere, and the largest dry-cooled coal power station in the world.