Cape Town - Eskom is moving ahead to power South Africa with Ingula’s first unit going into commercial operation, meaning that it can supply 333 MW of power to the national grid during peak times.
"Eskom’s Group Capital Division handed over Ingula’s first unit (Unit 4) to its generation division for commercial operation at 18:00 on Friday, 10 June 2016," it said in a statement on Monday. "It is the first of four units to commercially support the national grid ahead of schedule".
All four of Ingula’s units are scheduled for commercial operation in 2017. Unit 4 was synchronised to the national grid in March and has been undergoing optimisation while supporting the grid.
Ingula is a peaking hydro power station (meaning it can supply electricity during times of peak demand), which consists of an upper and a lower dam or reservoir and a powerhouse located 116 storeys underground in two excavated underground caverns.
The R25bn project is situated between Ladysmith and Harrismith in the Little Drakensberg.
“This moment in time is the culmination of many years and countless hours of work, and (we are) immensely proud and conscious of the significance of the Ingula team’s achievement," said Eskom group executive for group capital Abram Masango.
On completion of all four units, Ingula will be part of Eskom’s peaking fleet of power stations. It will be Africa’s newest and largest pumped storage scheme, and the 19th largest in the world.
Ingula’s four units are located 350 metres underground in the world’s largest machine hall in mud-rock. To turn the more than 500 ton rotating mass of the generator rotor and turbine, water is released from Ingula’s upper dam, Bedford Dam, situated 460m higher and 2 kilometres away.
Water flows at high speeds down to the turbines at around 60km per hour with enough water passing through each turbine to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool in six seconds. Rotating at 428 revolutions per minute, each unit will produce 333 MW, a total for the station of 1 332 MW.
Ingula unit 3 is currently under repair, based on an incident experienced during the optimisation process post synchronisation. This unit was synchronised to the grid on March 6 2016 and supported the grid until April 6 2016, when the incident occurred.
Ingula unit 2 was synchronised to the grid on May 22 2016 and is under optimisation, while Ingula unit 1 is still under construction.