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SA Load Shedding: Eskom Turns to Asia for Battery Power

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Luis Monzon
Luis Monzon
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South Africa’s public energy utility Eskom has today announced that it has appointed two service providers to begin its battery energy storage project.

According to Eskom, the project is focused on alleviating some of the pressure off of South Africa’s electricity grid and works toward lessening the impact of load shedding.

“Following a competitive and transparent bidding process, Eskom has awarded contracts to two successful bidders – Hyosung Heavy Industries and Pinggao Group – for the provision of battery storage solutions,” reads the utility’s announcement posted on Twitter Friday morning.

The contracts won by South Korean Hyosung Heavy Industries and Chinese Pinggao Group are for the “design, supply and installation as well as operating and maintenance” of the batteries “for a 5-year period.” The utility has not said what exactly each of the contract winners will contribute towards the project, but Hyosung specialises in large-scale energy equipment and renewables, while Pinggao is an electrical and electronic manufacturing company.

Eskom explains that the African Development Bank, New Development Bank, The World Bank, and the Clean Technology Fund (CTF) all helped in co-financing the project.

The 500MW BESS (Battery Energy Storage System) project is part of the initiative announced by SA president Cyril Ramaphosa and his government to begin addressing South Africa’s long-running energy crisis. The project will also serve as a proof of concept to show how large scale-storage can be used to address SA’s energy challenges successfully, according to Eskom.

Large-scale utility batteries from both contract winners will be used in the project, with a capacity of 1,440MWh per day.

A rendered image showing off a Hyosung Battery Facility.

The utility expects that the BESS project will help alleviate pressure from the national electricity grid by adding power to the grid during energy-demand peaks “for four hours a day for at least 250 days a year”, helping to lessen the need to implement load shedding to protect Eskom’s fleet of old and poorly maintained power stations.

Charging of the batteries will also take place during off-peak periods or when network conditions permit it, so as to not impact the grid. The battery sites will be situated in remote areas far from the company’s distribution networks, but close to renewable power producer plants, as the batteries will also be leveraging renewable energy for charging, including a 60MW solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity, to be added alongside the battery implementation process’ two phases.

The BESS Project Will Be Implemented in Two Phases:

  • Phase 1 – The batteries will add an approximate 199MW of additional capacity to the grid, with four hours of storage. This means 833MWh of distributed battery storage plants at eight Eskom Distribution substation sites will be operational. This phase also includes the adding of 2MW of solar PV capacity.
  • Phase 2 – The adding of an additional approximate 144MW more capacity, equivalent to 616MWh at four Eskom Distribution sites and one Transmission site. The solar PV capacity at this phase is 58MW.

A large number of sites will be located in South Africa’s Western Cape province, with fewer located in the Northern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, and the Eastern Cape.

According to Eskom, all Phase 1 sites are already planned to be commissioned by 30 June 2023 and Phase 2 sites by December 2024, so South Africans will have to wait another year or so to begin benefiting from the BESS project.

By Luis Monzon
Follow Luis Monzon on Twitter
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