Eskom has embarked on unprecedented stage 2 load shedding on Sunday after a silo storing coal at its Majuba power station in Mpumalanga collapsed (see image above from Chris Yelland).
Stage 2 load shedding requires users to reduce electricity demand by 2000MW. Eskom’s total capacity is around 43 000MW. It is most unusual to have load shedding on a Sunday and the extent of the load reduction is even more unusual.
Electricity demand is generally speaking lower over weekends than during the week, which indicates a high probability that Eskom will move into stage 3 load shedding from Monday, requiring 4 000MW savings.
Electricity expert Chris Yelland tweeted on Sunday morning: “You can expect rolling #Eskom blackouts across SA today and much more tomorrow, taking us back to the levels of 2008.”
Eskom sent out an email on Saturday night announcing countrywide load shedding from 8:00 until 22:00 on Sunday. It stated that a crack in the silo at its Majuba power station in Mpumalanga led to the loss of 1 800MW of generation capacity.
By Sunday morning Eskom spokesperson Andrew Etzinger confirmed that the silo, which houses 10 000 tons of coal and supplies all six units at Majuba has collapsed. Nobody was injured.
In an interview on Talk Radio 702 he called it “catastrophic” and said it had nothing to do with maintenance, but rather with the construction work that was completed 20 years ago.
The problems at Majuba come on top of Eskom’s existing generation challenges. Last week the company threatened that it was on the brink of load shedding.
On Money Eskom warned that is generation capacity was reduced by more than 10 000MW, of which 7 500MW was from unplanned outages.
The unit 3 at its Duvha power station that was damaged in March this year, is still out of service and the results of an investigation into the cause of the damage has not yet been made public.
Facts about the Majuba power station
Location: Between Volksrust and Amersfoort in Mpumalanga
Three 665MW dry-cooled units
Three 716MW dry-cooled units
Installed capacity 4 110MW
Average availability over last three years: 97.17%
Construction at the Majuba site started in September 1983 and the first unit went on load on 1 April 1996
Update from Eskom
At least four cities across the country are having to contend with power cuts on Sunday after a coal silo collapsed at Eskom’s Majuba power station in Mpumalanga.
Johannesburg, Pretoria, Cape Town and Port Elizabeth have been warned of rolling blackouts after Eskom lost 1800MW when the silo cracked and collapsed.
The outages could last the rest of the week, Eskom warned.
The Nelson Mandela Bay municipality in the Eastern Cape said it would cut power to areas for two hours at a time, according to its load-shedding schedule.
The City of Tshwane announced power cuts between 8am to 10pm on Sunday.
Johannesburg’s power utility, City Power had been asked to cut back on 460MW, it said in a statement.
The Ekurhuleni municipality said it had been switching customers off since 8.30am, according to the schedules on its website.
The City of Cape Town received a similar request from the national power utility.
“Residents and suburbs may be affected at their indicated times, depending on the current demand from Eskom,” it said.
The silo’s collapse affected coal supplies to all six units at the power station, which had a total capacity of 3600MW, or about 10 percent of the country’s power needs.
“The silo ruptured or cracked and so employees were evacuated… and it just collapsed,” Eskom spokesman Andrew Etzinger said.
“The conveyer belt systems, which feeds coal to the power station, were damaged and therefore we can’t get coal into the power station.”
He said Eskom would bring mobile coal conveyer belts from other stations to Majuba as a temporary solution, but this would take time.