Tesla to the rescue — How many Megapacks Eskom can buy for its R14-billion battery project

Power utility Eskom could buy at least 1,000 Tesla Megapacks for the same amount it plans to spend on an extensive new battery storage capacity.

Eskom CEO André de Ruyter recently revealed the utility would invest R14 billion in battery storage to complement its existing pump storage capacity.

The procurement will be funded through the World Bank, in partnership with the African Development Bank and New Development Bank.

The batteries will be installed at Eskom’s substations, including those at renewable energy plants, to store and release energy as required.

They will form part of Eskom’s flagship battery energy storage system, spread over 90 sites in the Western Cape, Northern Cape, Eastern Cape, and KwaZulu-Natal.

Eskom told MyBroadband the planned system will have an output power of 344MW.

Assuming a supply of roughly four hours at peak, it will be accompanied by a storage capacity of between 1,376MWh to 1,440MWh, Eskom said.

The first phase will see 200MW of power and 833MWh storage capacity procured.

“The first phase of the project bids closed in June 2021, and they are currently being evaluated and going through the necessary governance processes.  These processes could be concluded by year-end,” Eskom said.

Wind Farm 1
Utility-scale batteries can store energy generated by less consistent sources of power, like wind or solar, and discharge it to the grid as required.

The second phase is still under development and will see the remaining 144MW power and 616MWh storage added.

Eskom said the second phase would also include an additional 60MW of PV solar power across two sites, although it’s not clear if the budget for this is included in the R14 billion.

The utility said it could not elaborate on the battery storage providers it was considering as part of the project.

“An open commercial process was followed for both local and international bidders. So due to confidentiality, Eskom cannot disclose [the providers] at this stage, as this could compromise the procurement process,” the utility said.

It would be remiss of Eskom not to consider Elon Musk’s Tesla, one of the biggest global players in utility-scale power storage, to help build this system.

The company has been offering its lithium-ion based Megapack, a containerised battery system, since 2019.

The Megapack succeeded the Powerpack and is among the most cost-effective systems for large energy storage setups.

It is being used in several countries that increasingly rely on renewable energy to power their grids, including the US, UK, Australia, and Belgium.

Each Megapack comes ready to install with fully integrated battery modules, inverters, and thermal systems. A single unit provides 0.8MW of power and 3.1MWh of storage capacity.

Like the company’s Powerwall, they can be scaled up to offer more powerful combined capabilities.

We calculated roughly how many Tesla Megapacks one could buy with Eskom’s battery budget.

At current exchange rates, R14 billion is around $960 million.

Tesla’s online configurator for the Megapack shows it charges about $1.26 million (R18.39 million) for a single Megapack with installation in California.

The price per unit declines with orders of larger quantities. Tesla’s website allows for a maximum of 1,000 Megapacks per order.

That would cost about $890.7 million, or just over R13 billion. On Eskom’s budget, it leaves another R1 billion for shipping and other costs.

It’s not clear how the batteries would be taxed.

However, such a system would be able to output at 770MW and boast storage of 3,080MWh — more than double what Eskom plans to procure with its R14 billion budget.

Eskom could stick to its original output and storage configuration by buying only 447 Megapacks, which would be sufficient to provide an output of 344.2MW and 1,376.8MWh of storage.

That would cost just over $399 million, or about R5.8 billion — less than half of Eskom’s planned spending on the system.

This would leave more than enough money for constructing 60MW of PV solar capacity, with billions to spare, assuming that installation will also form part of the R14 billion budget.

Now read: Break free from Eskom

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Tesla to the rescue — How many Megapacks Eskom can buy for its R14-billion battery project