On 31 July, Unit 1, the last of six generation units of Eskom’s super-critical coal fired Medupi power station project in Lephalale, South Africa, attained commercial operation status and was handed over to the company’s Generation division. This milestone marks the completion of all building activities on the 4764 MW project, which commenced in May 2007 and has been finished on schedule. The first unit, Unit 6, attained commercial operation status on 23 August 2015. The planned operational life of the station is 50 years.
Commercial operation status means technical compliance to statutory, safety and legal requirements have all been met. The unit was officially declared commercial after the completion of the unit optimisation, control demonstration, as well as the 72-hour and the 30-day reliability run, which have put all performance guarantees to effect. Unit 1 was first synchronised to the national grid on 27 August 2019 and reached its full load of 794 MW on 5 December 2019. During this testing and optimisation phase, Unit 1 contributed intermittent power to the national electricity supply.
Medupi uses direct dry-cooling systems owing to the water scarcity in the Lephalale area, and is the fourth largest coal-fired plant and the largest dry-cooled power station in the world.
At its peak during construction, the Medupi project directly employed more than 18 000 people on building activities. The capital cost is R122 billion so far, a total that will rise to R135 billion on completion of balance of plant.
As part of the Medupi legacy project, Eskom invested more than R2.9 billion on socio-economic development initiatives to address some of the immediate social needs of the local communities. Since its inception, over R145 million was spent on corporate social investment benefitting over 80 000 people with a special focus on rural development, education and health infrastructure.