Eskom's R23-billion Ingula pumped storage scheme will come on line in phased intervals from 2014, adding 1 332 MW of hydro power to South Africa's electricity grid while making a significant contribution to job creation and rural development in the country.
Speaking during a site visit to the pumped storage scheme on the border of the Free State and KwaZulu-Natal provinces on the weekend, President Jacob Zuma said Ingula formed a crucial part of a massive capital investment drive aimed at securing the electricity supply the country's future growth depended on.
South Africa currently produces about 40 000 MW of electricity, and will require an an estimated additional 40 000 MW of power by 2025.
Electricity build programme
Zuma said that more than R340-billion would be spent on state electricity company Eskom's build programme over the next eight years.
Eskom is currently building two new coal-fired power stations, the 4 764 MW Medupi power station in Lephalale, Limpopo and the 4 800 MW Kusile power station near Emalahleni in Mpumalanga. Medupi's first unit is due to be commissioned in 2013, while Kusile is due for completion in 2016/17.
Zuma said the Ingula project was scheduled to come on line during 2014, with a unit being commissioned each quarter of that year. It will be the largest hydroelectric power source in South Africa.
"Through these electricity build projects, we will provide the electricity capacity needed to grow the economy, attract investment and create jobs," Zuma said.
"Medupi, Kusile and Ingula are expected to create approximately 40 000 job opportunities, which translates into 35 500 direct jobs during construction and operation and about 4 500 indirect jobs supporting the programme."
Situated about 23km north-east of Van Reenen, within the little Drakensberg mountain range, Ingula will be the first pumped storage scheme to be built on the continent in 24 years.
It consists of an upper and a lower dam, each with a water capacity of about 22-million cubic metres. The dams, 4.6-kilometres apart, will be connected by underground waterways to a subterranean generating plant with four 333 MW pump turbines.
When the country's energy consumption is low, the unused or "reserve" energy will be used to pump water from the lower to the upper dam.
During times of peak energy consumption in the country, water will be released from the upper dam through the pump turbines to the lower dam to generate electricity which will be fed into the national grid.
Eskom board member Collin Matjila, speaking during Zuma's site visit, said the power parastatal had taken note of the importance of sustainable development. "Twenty years from now, coal will contribute less to [SA's electricity supply] and renewable energy will play a bigger role," Matjila said.