The Medupi power plant reaches the half-way point with unit 4 achieving the Take Over Certificate (TOC) milestone that marks the end of construction, commissioning and testing.

The TOC also signifies that care, custody and control of the unit has been transferred to power parastatal Eskom, which can now dispatch the power being generated according to the requirements of the national grid. GE has been working on the Medupi project in Lephalale, Limpopo Province, South Africa since 2007.

“Medupi is the first supercritical power station in South Africa. A supercritical power station runs at higher steam pressure and temperature, resulting in a much higher cycle efficiency. This offers environmental benefits in that less coal is burnt and less carbon dioxide is produced. Medupi also makes use of dry cooling, using air-cooled condensers for cooling, instead of water. This results in the power station using a fraction of the water that a wet-cooled power station would use,” said Gladstone Mbili, GE Head of Engineering for Sub-Saharan Africa.

Once complete, Medupi’s six units will add 4800MW to the national grid and will power 3,5-million homes in South Africa. This project falls in line with the country’s National Development Plan to provide electricity to 95% of the population by  2030.

Local skills development has been an important component of the Medupi power plant project and the plant utilised semi-skilled and unskilled labour in order to develop, and uplift technical skills. To reiterate its commitment to the Accelerated  and Shared Growth Initiative for South Africa, GE required each contractor to formally train artisans, technicians and engineers.

Another aspect of GE’s contribution to the local economy was to ensure that local people were prioritised in the recruitment process. “Recruitment for the project was funnelled through Eskom’s recruitment centre which prioritised local employment. Vacancies which could not be filled from the local area were then opened to the national market and then, the international market,” said Douglas Beigley, Project Director at GE Power SSA. This not only helps develop skills, but it also has a positive effect on the local economy. At the peak of construction, Medupi had approximately 250 direct employees and more than 3,500 sub-contracted workers on-site.

Beigley added: “The new units coming into service have bridged the supply and demand electricity gap in South Africa. A prerequisite for general economic expansion in any country is access to sufficient and reliable power. Without it, forecasted production for any new business and return on investment cannot be assured. This hinders investment in the economy on a macro level, but particularly in those sectors, which typically have high power requirements such as the manufacturing and mining industries. Such industries are usually manpower intensive and drive employment, which is vital for the continued improvement of the local economy.”

GE’s scope of work on the Medupi power plant included the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) of six full turbine islands and air-cooled condensers as well as overall project, and construction management. The EPC activities are almost complete on unit 4. Only the commissioning, which is a small percentage of the work, remains and this will continue until mid-2019.

GE has also supported South  Africa’s energy development goals on the Kusile Power Station in Mpumalanga. Once complete, Kusile will also add 4800MW to the country’s national power grid.

Image above: The Medupi power station in Lephalale, Limpopo Province, South Africa. Credit: GE

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