After nearly a decade in construction, Eskom’s mega hydropower station, Ingula, has synchronised Unit 1 to the grid and is set to supply the network with 333MW of power during peak.

This development took place when the country was celebrating Youth Day on Thursday, 16 June marking a key milestone towards the full commercial operation of the unit ahead of the scheduled deadline of January 2017, the parastatal said in a statement.

Eskom Group Chief Executive Brian Molefe said: “In honour of the 40th commemoration of June 16 in South Africa’s history, Eskom dedicates Unit 1 to the memory of Hector Peterson and the class of ‘76 who created a lasting legacy for the youth of the future.

“We are proud to have synchronised all four units at Ingula ahead of schedule. We look forward to Ingula rapidly nearing commercial completion and meeting the 2017 deadline thereby enhancing the security of Eskom’s electricity supply to power South Africa into the future.”

This unit has come online shortly after Unit 4 was handed over for commercial operation last week, which enabled the grid to further secure 333MW of power.

Mega hydropower station to boost grid supply

The ZAR25 billion [$2 billion] project, which is expected to reach full operation in 2017, is situated between Ladysmith and Harrismith in the Little Drakensberg and will be ranked as the 19th largest pumped storage facility in the world.

Eskom’s Group Executive for Group Capital, Abram Masango, said: “Through this effort, Eskom’s New Build Programme is on track to deliver the much need capacity that South Africans require to grow the economy to ensure a better life for all.”

According to the utility, Units 3 and 2 are on track for commercial operation in 2017 and will support the electricity grid.

“Once completed in the next five years, our capacity expansion programme, which is the largest in the company’s history, will increase our generation capacity by 17,384MW, transmission lines by 9,756km and substation capacity by 42,470MVA,” the utility explained.

The power company added: “This will enable us to provide security of electricity supply to South African homes and businesses, powering economic expansion and extending electricity to millions of households who currently rely on other fuel sources for domestic cooking and heating.”

Unit 3 undergoing reconstruction

Last month, Unit 3 suffered damage during the test phase, after being the first unit to be synchronised to the grid on 3 March 2016.

Once the project is running at full capacity, the project will have an underground powerhouse boarding 4 X 333MW pump turbines, with total capacity of 1,332MW.