Energy utility Eskom yesterday launched a microgrid at Swartkopdam, about 150km from Upington, in the Northern Cape.
The microgrid provides electricity to 39 households that did not have access to electricity prior to this project.
In a statement, Eskom explains Swartkopdam was identified by Eskom Distribution as one of the community’s high priority needs due to its remoteness and critical facilities embedded in the grid.
The power utility says it looked into connecting Swartkopdam by building a 200km 132kV line from Gordonia substation and establishing Noenieput substation at Noenieput, which was estimated to cost R250 million. This option was considered extremely expensive and was, therefore, not pursued, it adds.
The microgrid, with battery energy storage capability developed by Eskom’s research, testing and development department, was considered the most suitable solution for Swartkopdam.
“The deployment of the microgrid at Swartkopdam serves as a proof of concept in installing microgrids in remote areas which are difficult to reach, or expensive to electrify through conventional means of electrification,” says Monde Bala, Eskom distribution group executive.
“Eskom plans to roll out about 100 microgrids across the country by the end March 2024 as part of the distribution business strategy.”
Microgrids are a cheaper energy source and contribute in reducing carbon emission because they use renewable energy sources, Eskom says.
“Through innovation and collaborative partnerships, Eskom is able to provide clean and reliable electricity to the people of Swartkopdam,” adds Mpho Makwana, Eskom board chairman.
“This project serves as reassurance of Eskom’s commitment to assisting the South African government in achieving its objective of ensuring every South African has access to electricity.”
The installation of the microgrid at Swartkopdam follows installations of two pilot microgrid projects at Lynedoch in the Western Cape and Ficksburg in the Free State.
Eskom launched its Ficksburg pilot solar-powered microgrid in 2018. The microgrid demonstration plant was completed in November 2017 and provides electricity to 14 households that make up the Wilhelmina community.
In addition to the installation of the microgrid, Eskom says it is giving back to the Swartkopdam community by donating two mobile containers and recreational equipment to Swartkopdam Primary School. The energy utility says giving back to the community is central to its corporate social responsibility strategy.
“We will continue to close the gap of energy poverty by giving everyone a life-changing experience of having electricity,” says Bala.