South Africa’s biggest solar battery storage system started feeding power into Eskom’s grid in mid-December 2023.

Scatec ASA announced its Kenhardt hybrid solar and battery facility in the Northern Cape officially started producing and supplying electricity to the national grid on 11 December 2023.

The facility boasts a combined installed solar capacity of 540MW from three plants, while its massive battery system can output up to 225MW of power.

With a 1,140MWh capacity, the battery can supply 150MW of dispatchable power consistently between 05:00 and 21:30 throughout the year, Scatec said.

That is around 30MW more output than the last unit at the Komati Power Station was producing by the time Eskom decommissioned the 61-year-old plant in October 2022.

Scatec is selling electricity from the facility to Eskom under a 20-year power purchase agreement.

The company said the project was one of the world’s first and largest hybrid solar and battery storage facilities.

“A hybrid solar and battery storage plant integrates solar and battery technologies, overcoming intermittency challenges and bolstering grid stability,” Scatec said.

“With the ability to deliver reliable power in low or no sunlight, the integrated storage enhances overall reliability.”

“Notably, the project outperformed fossil fuels in a competitive bid, cementing renewables’ ascendance as the most cost-effective electricity source.”

The battery section of Scatec’s 540MW/1,140MWh hybrid plant.

Construction of the Kenhardt hybrid facility started in July 2022 and included the installation of almost 1 million PV modules. At the peak of its construction, the site employed 2,600 workers.

The entire hybrid facility spans 879 hectares and measures 10 km from north to south.

Scatec said that the project also required 9,000 kilometres of cabling, enough to cover the distance between South Africa and Norway.

The battery section consists of 456 units, each the size of a shipping container and tips the scale at 30 tonnes.

In a post on Twitter/X, BYD Energy said the battery used at the plant was one of its systems.

The Chinese firm is one of the world’s leading battery manufacturers, offering products for commercial and utility-scale storage.

It also produces and sells electric vehicle (EV) batteries used by companies like Tesla and its own BYD automotive brand.

The South African government has had formal discussions to convince the company to open a local factory.

One of several large-scale battery projects

Scatec said the hybrid plant was its biggest project to date and would generate solid returns for Scatec’s shareholders.

The plant was built with funding of approximately $1 billion (R18.65 billion) from lenders, including The Standard Bank Group as lead arranger and British International Investment (BII).

Scatec CEO Terje Pilskog congratulated the Scatec team for delivering the project on schedule, within budget and with good Health, Safety, Security & Environment performance, and thanked all partners and stakeholders who had been integral to its success.

Aside from the Kenhardt facility, Scatec has over 448MW of solar power operating in South Africa.

The company has also been chosen as a preferred bidder for the Mogobe (Ferrum) battery energy storage project, which will add 103MW of capacity and 412MWh storage under the first bid window of the Battery Energy Storage Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme.

The launch of Scatec’s commercial operations at its existing hybrid plant came about a month after Eskom unveiled the first phase of its Battery Energy Storage System (BESS) at Hex substation in Worcester in the Western Cape.

The Hex substation system can store 100MWh of energy, which Eskom said was enough to supply the 20MW demand of a small town like Mossel Bay for five hours.

Eskom’s entire BESS project will be able to support an output of 343MW, equivalent to a daily capacity of 1,440MWh.


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