Nearly 10 years on and only half of Medupi operational

Johannesburg - Eskom expects Medupi to commence full commercial operation next year, 10 years after construction started.

The  power station was first commissioned back in 2007 and initially Eskom expected the total duration of the project to be no longer than four years. But the project has been hit by delays and cost overruns, and nine years later, three additional boiler units still have to be finished before the new deadline of 2018.

State-owned power utility Eskom announced this week that Unit 4 of its Medupi power station in Lephalale was synchronised to the national grid on Wednesday, ahead of schedule.

The unit became the third of the power station’s six units to come on stream. Unit 5 achieved successful synchronisation last year on September 8 while the first boiler unit, Unit 6, became commercially operational in 2015.

Eskom has laid some of the blame for the delay at Medupi at the door of contractors, citing boiler welders and bad worksmanship as issues that they have had to contend with.

Prish Govender, acting group executive for group capital, said the new unit’s timely synchronisation has ignited hope that Medupi in total could be finished ahead of schedule next year.

“Medupi Unit 4 synchronisation is a great milestone and a strong indication that we are on the right path on delivering the entire new build programme to the country, ahead of schedule,” he said.

Synchronisation occurs when the generator in the unit is connected into the power grid so that it is aligned with all other generators on the national grid. It will then start to generate and deliver electricity into the grid over several months.

Once completed, Medupi will be the fourth largest coal-fired power plant, and the largest dry-cooled power station in the world. It will consist of six units with an installed capacity of 4 800MW. The planned operational life of the power station is 50 years. It is the fourth dry-cooled, baseload station built in 20 years by Eskom after the Kendal, Majuba and Matimba power stations.

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