The solution to South Africa’s electricity problems – Powerships

Eskom should create 5,000MW of space on the grid and use this additional capacity to take generating units offline and do proper maintenance on power plants.

This is the view of energy advisor Ted Blom, who said a lack of proper maintenance is to blame for the high number of breakdowns at Eskom power plants.

To resolve this problem, Blom said proper maintenance and refurbishment should be done on South Africa’s power stations instead of the current “patch jobs”.

He said the full fleet of Eskom’s old power stations needed proper maintenance and refurbishment, which will take between three and four years.

“After such a maintenance project, we will have a refurbished fleet which will be ready for another 50 years,” said Blom.

Using power barges for additional capacity

To get an additional 5,000MW of power is a challenge, as South Africa cannot purchase it from neighbouring countries.

The solution, Blom said, is to bring in additional power generating units through power barges (also known as powerships) or similar programmes.

Powerships are cost-effective, privately owned and operated floating power stations which can be moored at South African harbours.

Each powership contains its own generation, electrical control, and substation components. The ship also includes its own maintenance workshop and engineering capabilities.

The onboard substation can be connected to the national grid without lengthy delays or complicated engineering.

Government open to using power barges

Blom said Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe opened a new request for information (RFI) in December where they are looking at all options, including power barges.

He said the government has started to mention the term “power barges”, which come in many configurations.

“They either come on ships which are placed at a harbour, or you fly in units and you install them on land,” Blom said.

He added that this is not a cheap option, but when compared to the impact of load-shedding on the economy it is the better option.

Not a new idea

In 2015, former Eskom chairperson Zola Tsotsi’s plan to address South Africa’s power problems included ordering seaborne power stations from the Turkish group Karadeniz.

The Karadeniz Energy Group developed its “Power of Friendship” to “fulfil the urgent electricity needs of all countries in the world with our powership fleet”.

Powerships are delivered to client countries as a complete power plant, ready to operate immediately.

Powership capacities range from 45MW to 500MW, and the vessels are delivered between 60-180 days after ordering to provide medium-term solutions – with contracts of between 2-5 years.

Should this solution be implemented, it will not be the first time South Africa used a powership. Eskom rented a barge-mounted turbine when the Koeberg nuclear power plant was struggling in 2006.

Karadeniz powerships

Powerships are constructed with special technology which can operate both on liquid fuels (HFO/RFO) as well as natural gas.

With high efficiency and availability, powerships can provide uninterrupted electricity at various high voltage levels.

Operation and maintenance of the powerships are also provided for by the Karadeniz Energy Group.

The photos below show examples of the Karadeniz powerships.

Karadeniz powership

Karadeniz powership


Now read: Powerships can solve South Africa’s short-term energy problems

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The solution to South Africa’s electricity problems – Powerships