Work­ers dam­age In­gula’s new power gen­er­a­tor

CityPress - - News - SIPHO MASONDO sipho.masondo@city­press.co.za

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.

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