Eskom’s Medupi plant has now added 4,000MW to the national grid

The fifth unit of South Africa’s coal-fired Medupi Power Station has been completed eight months ahead of schedule, increasing plant capacity to 4,000 MW – enough power for nearly three million South African households.

The government had in 2015 promised that all the six units of the power station will be completed in the first quarter of 2019, adding 4,764 megawatts (MW) into the national electricity grid. GE Power has been working with state utility Eskom to deliver six turbine islands, air cooled condensers and manage the overall project, as well as construction. Bot entities have invested over R1 billion to empower local businesses and train over 300 students with artisans, technical and engineering skills. Forty percent of the workforce trained as pipe fitters, welders and electricians were sourced from the province, and 60 percent were youth.

GE Power and Eskom announced that Medupi unit 2, the fifth out of the six units at the power station, has now been successfully synchronized to the national grid. This reaffirms Medupi’s position as the largest power station in South Africa and fourth in the world.

“The achievement of Unit 2 first synchronization, eight months ahead of the June 2019 schedule, marks a key milestone towards full commercial operation of the unit,” said Abram Masango, Eskom’s Group Executive for Group Capital. “Lessons learnt on previous units were implemented on Unit 2, leading to the swiftness in delivering first power. This is an amazing achievement, taking us closer to completing the entire Medupi project, as we will be left with one unit.”

Also commenting on this milestone, Lee Dawes, Regional Leader for GE’s Steam Power in Sub Saharan Africa, said achieving this milestone ahead of schedule is no small feat. “We continue to work with Eskom to deliver the much-needed capacity to stabilise the national grid as well as partner in various skills development projects to build much needed technical skills to meet the ever-growing demand for trained artisans.”

One major criticism of the project has been about emissions. The plant is expected to emit an equivalent of 32 million tons of Carbon dioxide per year. In February 2010, climate change activists expressed concern that the World Bank would fund the coal-fired plant. The international lender had approved a $3.75 billion loan for the project.

However, GE continues to ensure that it deploys the latest technologies to deliver the lowest levels of emissions from industrial operations. Medupi and another coal-fired power station Kusile are using supercritical technology to achieve much higher efficiencies than the South African fleet average. The Medupi Power plant is the first in Africa to use such technology, making it one of the most efficient large-scale power plants on the continent.

Both the Medupi and Kusile plants also implement dry instead of wet cooling, resulting in significantly less water consumption.