On 9 November 2023, Eskom officially opened the first of its kind and largest Battery Energy Storage System (BESS) project in South Africa and in Africa. The Hex BESS project in Worcester in the Western Cape is the first installation to be completed under Eskom’s flagship BESS project, announced in July 2022 and intended to help alleviate the pressure on the national electricity grid.
The BESS project serves as a direct response to meet one of the urgent needs to address South Africa’s long-running electricity crisis by adding more storage capacity to strengthen the grid, and at the same time diversifying the existing energy generation mix. It will use large-scale utility batteries with a total capacity of 1 440 MWh per day and a 60 MW PV capacity.
The Hex BESS installation is designed to store 100 MWh of energy and includes 2 MW of solar PV capacity.
The Hex site is specifically designed to store 100 MWh of energy, enough to power a town such as Mossel Bay or Howick for about five hours. It forms part of Phase 1 of Eskom’s BESS project which includes the installation of approximately 833 MWh additional storage capacity at eight Eskom Distribution substation sites in KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape, Western Cape and Northern Cape. This phase also includes about 2 MW of solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity.
Eskom Group Executive for Distribution, Monde Bala said: “We are grateful to the funders of the Eskom BESS project, and to our construction partner Hyosung Heavy Industries. This is proof of what we can achieve when we work as a team and in collaboration with industry and local communities.”
The BESS technology offers a versatile solution to improve overall grid performance and is in line with South Africa’s commitment to the just energy transition to a more resilient and sustainable energy future. The initiative demonstrates Eskom’s commitment to finding innovative solutions and embracing new technologies in preparation for the new era in the energy distribution landscape.
“We are pioneering the implementation of the BESS technology to deliver a large-scale commercial project that will serve to validate the technology’s feasibility and benefits. The successful implementation will pave the way for wider adoption and possible export of the technology to other regions beyond the borders of South Africa,” said Eskom General Manager: Distribution, Operations Enablement, Velaphi Ntuli.
“The Hex project is a demonstration of what Eskom teams can do in finding alternative, innovative and lasting solutions to address the country’s electricity challenges,” said Eskom Group Executive for Generation, Bheki Nxumalo.
The Hex project benefitted the local community of Worcester directly by employing about 250 local community members, supporting twelve early childhood centres with playground and educational material, the donation of computers and five hundred full school uniforms. Further corporate social investment projects are to be executed before the end of March 2024.
On completion of this first phase, Eskom will implement Phase 2 of the project which includes the installation of a further 144 MW of storage capacity, equivalent to 616 MWh, at four Eskom Distribution sites and one Transmission site. The solar PV capacity in this phase will be 58 MW.
With the rollout of these technologies and the disciplined execution of its Generation Recovery Plan, which started in March 2023 and aims to achieve an energy availability factor of 70% by end March 2025, Eskom will provide the much-needed megawatts to address the current capacity constraints.