South Africa’s Eskom Unveils The Largest Battery Storage Project in Africa

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Big utility-scale batteries are gaining increasing traction and adoption in many parts of the world, and South Africa has now joined in on the action. South Africa’s national power utility company, Eskom, has just unveiled the largest Battery Energy Storage System (BESS) in South Africa. This is not only the first one of its kind in South Africa, but also a first on the African continent.

Eskom officially opened the Hex BESS site at Worcester in Western Cape yesterday. Eskom says the Hex BESS is the first project to be completed under Eskom’s flagship BESS project announced in July 2022 to help alleviate the pressure on the national electricity grid. The BESS project serves as a direct response to meet one of the urgent needs to address South Africa’s long-running electricity crisis by adding more storage capacity to strengthen the grid while diversifying the existing generation energy mix. It uses large utility-scale batteries with a total capacity of 1,440MWh per day and a 60MW PV capacity.

Eskom adds that this Hex site is specifically designed to store 100MWh of energy, enough to power a town such as Mossel Bay or Howick for about five hours. It forms part of Phase 1 of Eskom’s BESS project, which includes the installation of approximately 833MWh additional storage capacity at eight Eskom Distribution substation sites in KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape, Western Cape, and Northern Cape. This phase also includes about 2MW of solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity.

“We are grateful to the various funders of the Eskom BESS project, and to our construction partner Hyosung Heavy Industries. This is proof of what we can achieve when we work as a team and in collaboration with industry and local communities,” remarked Eskom’s Group Executive for Distribution, Monde Bala.

The BESS technology offers a versatile solution for improving overall grid performance and is in line with South Africa’s commitment to the just energy transition to a more resilient and sustainable energy future. The initiative demonstrates Eskom’s commitment in finding innovative solutions and embracing new technologies in preparation for the new era in the energy distribution landscape.

“We are pioneering the implementation of the BESS technology, serving as a large-scale commercial project to validate the technology’s feasibility and benefits. The successful implementation will pave the way for wider adoption and possible export of the technology to other regions beyond the borders of South Africa,” said Eskom’s General Manager of Distribution, Operations Enablement, Velaphi Ntuli.

“The Hex project is a demonstration of what Eskom teams can do in finding alternative, innovative and lasting solutions in addressing the country’s electricity challenges,” said Eskom’s Group Executive for Generation, Bheki Nxumalo.

The Hex project benefited the local community of Worcester by employing about 250 local community members, supporting twelve early childhood centers with playgrounds and educational materials, the donation of computers, and the donation of 500 full school uniforms. Furthermore, other corporate social investment projects are to be executed before the end of March 2024.

Upon completion of the first Phase, Eskom will implement Phase 2 of the project, which includes the installation of a further 144MW of storage capacity, equivalent to 616MWh at four Eskom distribution sites and one transmission site. The solar PV capacity in this phase will be 58MW.

This is a great development for South Africa. I hope there will be more projects like these that can also help integrate more renewable energy, unlocking opportunities to meet South Africa’s huge electricity generation shortfall that has resulted in prolonged cycles of electricity rationing known as load-shedding.

Image courtesy of Eskom.

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