South Africa’s biggest solar battery now online — with more power than an old Eskom coal power station

In mid-December 2023, the largest solar battery storage system in South Africa commenced supplying power to Eskom’s grid. Scatec ASA officially initiated operations at its Kenhardt hybrid solar and battery facility in the Northern Cape on December 11, 2023. This facility, consisting of three solar plants with a combined capacity of 540MW and a substantial battery system capable of delivering up to 225MW, marks a significant milestone in renewable energy infrastructure.

The battery, with a capacity of 1,140MWh, can consistently provide 150MW of dispatchable power between 05:00 and 21:30 throughout the year. This output surpasses the performance of the last unit at the Komati Power Station, which Eskom decommissioned in October 2022, by approximately 30MW. Under a 20-year power purchase agreement, Scatec is supplying electricity from this facility to Eskom.

Characterized as one of the world’s premier hybrid solar and battery storage facilities, the Kenhardt plant integrates solar and battery technologies to address intermittency challenges and enhance grid stability. Scatec emphasizes the reliability of this integrated storage system, which can deliver power even during periods of low or no sunlight, outperforming fossil fuels in a competitive bid and affirming renewables’ status as the most cost-effective source of electricity.

Construction of the Kenhardt hybrid facility commenced in July 2022, involving the installation of nearly 1 million PV modules and engaging up to 2,600 workers at its peak. Spanning 879 hectares and stretching 10 km from north to south, the entire hybrid facility required extensive infrastructure, including 9,000 kilometers of cabling. The battery section, comprising 456 units, each equivalent to the size of a shipping container and weighing 30 tonnes, utilizes battery systems from BYD Energy, a leading Chinese manufacturer known for its commercial and utility-scale storage solutions.

The project, funded by approximately $1 billion (R18.65 billion) from lenders such as The Standard Bank Group and British International Investment (BII), signifies Scatec’s commitment to renewable energy expansion. In addition to the Kenhardt facility, Scatec operates over 448MW of solar power in South Africa and has secured a preferred bidder status for the Mogobe (Ferrum) battery energy storage project, which will further contribute 103MW of capacity and 412MWh of storage.

Eskom, South Africa’s state-owned electricity utility, also embarked on its Battery Energy Storage System (BESS) project, unveiling the first phase at the Hex substation in Worcester, Western Cape, around a month before Scatec’s commercial operations launch. This system, capable of storing 100MWh of energy, is part of Eskom’s broader initiative to support an output of 343MW, equivalent to a daily capacity of 1,440MWh, enhancing the resilience and reliability of the national grid.

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