Workers damage Ingula’s new power generator
Construction workers at Eskom’s Ingula Pumped Storage Scheme, initially known as Braamhoek, severely damaged one of the units last month.
City Press was told by an insider at the power utility that while the workers were preparing to bring the country’s latest power generator online, they caused damage to the unit, which would take months to repair.
“A safety system had been bypassed and the generator went online when it was not synchronised with the grid. This caused major damage to the generator,” said the insider, who added that an assessment of the damage was under way.
Eskom spokesperson Khulu Phasiwe confirmed the damage to the power station’s Unit 3.
“The unfortunate incident occurred while the contractor was busy with tests on the unit,” he said in response to emailed questions.
“All the commissioning procedures in place were followed by the contractor.”
Phasiwe denied that there was negligence or that safety requirements had been bypassed.
He would not respond to the allegation that it would take months to repair the damage.
“The unit will be repaired accordingly and put into commercial operation before the end of the current financial year,” Phasiwe said.
“All the repair costs will be covered by the insurance. This incident does not compromise the completion of the Ingula project. All the units will go into commercial operation, as planned.”
The entire facility, the construction of which began in 2005, will cost more than R25 billion.
Pumped storage schemes, said Phasiwe, were primarily operated to meet system peak demands. He said the scheme released electricity during periods of peak demand or insufficient capacity, and stored energy from the system during periods of low demand or excess capacity.
The damaged unit is the first of the four of the Ingula Pumped Storage Scheme to be connected to the national grid.
Once completed, all four units will produce 1 332 megawatts of power.
This is the second accident to happen at the hydroelectric power plant, which is situated on the border of KwaZulu-Natal and the Free State.
In 2013, six construction workers plunged to their deaths when a platform on wheels broke loose from its hinges 4km inside a tunnel. Seven workers escaped with injuries.
The tunnel is one of four which link the Braamhoek Dam to the Bedford Dam.
The Ingula Pumped Storage Scheme is powered by the two dams.