Grand Opening at Medupi Unit 6 Power Station

Lephalale - Members of the media have gathered at the Medupi Power Station in Lephalale, Limpopo, on Sunday morning to tour the construction site ahead of the official opening of Unit 6.

President Jacob Zuma is expected to grace the official opening of Unit 6 at the power plant which is one of the biggest infrastructure projects led by government.

Eskom CEO Brian Molefe and top Eskom executives have already arrived on the site where there is a hive of activity.

In the meantime, news’ crews were briefed on the health, safety and security measures in place before been given safety boots, helmets and reflector jackets to tour the coal-fired power plant.

Construction was in full swing at the power station project, which has seen delays and cost overruns associated with technical and labour problems.

Unit 6 was first synchronised to the national grid on 2 March 2015, and has been able to alleviate pressure on the national electricity system, helping to either avoid load-shedding altogether or minimise its severity.

Its synchronisation, according to Eskom, further boosted South Africa’s electricity supply by an extra 800 megawatts - enough electricity to power a city the size of Bloemfontein.

As such, the country has entered its 22 consecutive day without rolling power cuts.

Synchronisation, or first power, according to power station manager Johan Prinsloo, is the “process whereby the generator in the unit is electrically connected into the power grid, in such a way that its power is perfectly aligned with all the other generators and to generate and deliver electricity into the grid”.

He told the media that the process is a bit like a car preparing to join the traffic flow on the highway.

“It has to get its gearing and speed right before it can flow in sync with the rest of the traffic.”

Government has described the unit has as a critical milestone in developing new generating capacity in the country - which saw power cuts due to the high demand of electricity in recent months.

The power station will be powered by 6 x 800MW steam-powered turbines to produce a maximum demand of about 4 800MW of power which is about 12% of South Africa’s power generation.

Massive coal-fired boilers will be used to provide steam for the turbines.

Medupi would consume about 14.6-million tonnes of coal a year at full capacity. The power plant will also be the biggest dry-cooled power station in the world.

Government, which has backed the project, believes that the plant will supply vital electricity to South Africa over the long-term.

This, as many of the country’s power plants are at the end of their useful life and no new large-scale power stations have been built for almost two decades.