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Here’s why Eskom’s battery storage project should give homeowners hope

As we move into the first quarter of 2019 with the possibility of rolling black-outs top of mind, we can look forward to a few positives from Eskom’s 801.5MWh battery storage programme – the first phase of which is due to come on stream in December 2019.

It’s true to say that a plethora of problems beset the beleaguered Eskom, at present in the throes of a desperately needed shake-up according to informed opinion.

For hard-pressed homeowners any signs of a reality check at the utility is welcome news. The publication by Eskom last year of a 19-page report (pdf) outlining how it planned to implement an externally funded battery storage project linked to South Africa’s alternative energy facilities rekindled hope that some good news was filtering out of Megawatt Park. The two-phase programme will start with an 800 megawatt-capacity distributed battery network.

While Eskom is anything but cash flush, the World Bank and the African Development Bank are joint funders of the two-phase project which should see battery storage sites built near the existing grid to integrate renewable energy into the national grid.

HomeTimes made contact with Eskom’s media desk to ask for an update on the project.

Here’s the response: “The readiness timelines will depend on the finalisation of funding plans, internal approvals and external statutory approvals, and the storage sites will be in Eskom distribution networks across South Africa. The cost is commercially sensitive information. Investment will be provided by multiple funding partners. All the standard functions available in battery storage solutions will be considered. The functions will be customised for each site.”

It is clear from the Eskom report that the utility has to negotiate a lengthy list of environmental approvals. Six authorities issue environmental approvals requiring the need to consider 10 pieces of national environmental legislation, the first of which is the National Environmental Management Act 107 of 1998 (updated 16 July 2018). However, South Africa’s environmental legislation is the equivalent of the safeguard requirements stipulated by the World Bank and the African Development Bank.

The Eskom report states that the battery programme will comprise the supply, installation and operation of “distributed battery storage infrastructure at Eskom sub-stations including sub-stations located at existing Variable Renewable Energy (VRE) plants operated by Eskom Renewables (including the Bank-funded 100 MW Sere wind farm), upcoming distributed solar PV to be implemented by Eskom Distribution, and the new REIPPP (Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Programme) sites. The Battery Energy Storage System (BESS) will be used to assist peak shaving, frequency support and ancillary services in the distribution network.”

The Capes and KwaZulu-Natal first to be served

kimberley northern cape

Modern-day Kimberley in the Northern Cape

The first phase of the Distributed Battery Storage with Distributed Solar PV project will entail 800MWh of distributed battery storage only being implemented at 47 distribution sites in the Eastern (2 sites), Northern (7 sites) and Western Cape (24 sites) and KwaZulu-Natal (14 sites) by December 2019. Phase two will comprise 640MWh of distributed battery storage with 60MW of distributed PV to be implemented in all nine provinces by December 2021.

The Eskom report states that the “sites have been selected based on the technical need for battery storage to support the integration of renewable energy and the stability of the distribution network. Therefore, the majority of sites will be existing Eskom substation sites, wind energy sites or adjacent municipal land. This therefore means that there will be no relocation of people.

“The battery storage systems will be containerised and the containers installed primarily on already disturbed areas within existing electrical sub-stations, generating low environmental impacts. Additionally, the operation and maintenance of the facilities will be mostly carried out remotely. Therefore, no potential indirect or long-term environmental impacts are expected from the project.”

Progress is being made with the project’s first phase with the appointment last year of environmental impact assessment consultants in the four provinces.

Note: Battery storage facilities linked to solar and wind power generation farms have been implemented in various countries in recent years by companies such as Tesla, AES and Altagas. These countries include the USA, Australia, Hawaii, New Zealand, the UK, Pacific Islands, Madagascar and Indonesia.

Words: Blake Wilkins


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