Eskom completes repairs to Medupi Unit 3 during lockdown

Eskom says it has completed repairs to Unit 3 of Medupi power station, after the unit was shut late in January to address defects relating to the boiler. 

It will now undergo optimisation and performance testing. 

Eskom said contractors and staff had worked "tirelessly" to execute the outage as planned during the coronavirus lockdown. 

The power utility announced in June 2019 that the unit was ready for commercial operation and had been synchronised to the national grid, in what was expected to ease power generation constraints. But Medupi power station has been troubled by ongoing defects, and its performance was instead flagged as a contributing factor to load shedding.

Eskom said in a statement on Monday that the unit has reached full generation capacity of 793 MW and is undergoing optimisation and performance testing.

"The major focus of the outage was to implement the technically agreed solutions for the boiler issues that hobbled the performance of the unit," the power utility said in a statement. "Medupi’s Unit 3 has since Tuesday, 05 May 2020, reached the full generation capacity of 793 MW."

The state-owned power company said the unit had undergone a range of boiler plant modifications and similar work is being conducted on Unit 6, which is currently on outage. This will be followed by Unit 1 from mid-May 2020.

"Unit 4 will also be taken off the grid in July 2020 for similar modifications. Unit 2 will be taken off the grid late August 2020, followed by Unit 5 in November 2020."

The company has used the lockdown period to ramp up maintenance work to its infrastructure, as demand for electricity dropped due to slow economic activity.

Coal-fired Medupi, which boasts six generating units, has been hobbled by delays and cost overruns, structural defects and claims of corruption, adding pressure to Eskom's already strained finances and operations. 

In a bid to ease pressure on Eskom, government has announced plan to split the utility into three entities, namely generation, transmission and distribution.