Necessary maintenance work required on the Steenbras Dam pumped storage scheme has been completed and could provide relief for ahead of possible load shedding in the coming winter months.

Mayco Member for Energy and Climate Change, Phindile Maxiti says the maintenance included an internal inspection of the 132kV switchgear and overhead line repairs.

“We scheduled maintenance; have completed the work done within the promised timeframes and should load-shedding occur in the weeks or months to come, we will be able to assist our City-supplied customers if we have spare generation capacity,” he said.

Built more than 30 years ago, the Steenbras power station was the first hydro-electric pumped storage scheme in Africa.

He adds that the mechanism will be able to provide aid during load shedding periods and alleviate pressure on the City’s power supply. “In winter, peak time typically falls between 18:00 and 20:00 in the evenings. Outside of that window, the City may at times have spare capacity which can be used to offset load-shedding during Stage 1 or reduce a higher stage to a lower stage e.g. from Stage 2 to Stage 1.”

How the plant works:

– Electricity generated during low-cost off-peak periods is used to pump water form a lower to an upper storage reservoir.

– During periods of peak demand, the water is released back to the lower reservoir, thereby generating electricity like a conventional hydroelectric power station.

– Each of the stations four 45 000 kW generator units act as a pump-motor in one mode and a turbine generator in another.

– Hydroelectricity is produced using the gravitational force of falling or flowing water to power an electricity generator.

Maxiti says that the Steenbras plant is an ideal example of why the City should be allowed to utilize independent power producers and become less reliant on Eksom.

It shows how important it is for municipalities to be able to use various sources of energy and not to be primarily dependent on one source as provided by one provider such as Eskom. If we were to be allowed to purchase power from independent power producers in addition to that which we have access to from Eskom, we would be able to make use of some cleaner and diversified resources which we could also harness to increase energy security for our residents. That is why we have a pending court action where the City is seeking to be allowed to purchase energy from independent power producers (IPPs). Currently, this is not allowed.”

Although the Western Cape does not have a large enough source of water to produce a surplus amount of electricity to meet all the power needs in Cape Town, smaller generator schemes such as Steenbras can provide aid during load shedding.

Locals are advised to use electricity sparingly during load shedding periods and to research energy saving methods for the coming winter months.

“With the winter months approaching we encourage our residents to look at ways to use energy wisely as traditionally energy usage goes up in winter, especially in the evening peak time,” said Maxiti.

Picture: City of Cape Town, Steenbras Dam

Article written by

Ishani Chetty

Ishani is a vegetarian who is passionate about animals, social issues, the environment and current affairs.