Home Business Frankfort switches off solar panels after Eskom blocks them from cutting load-shedding

Frankfort switches off solar panels after Eskom blocks them from cutting load-shedding

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Frankfort switches off solar panels after Eskom blocks them from cutting load-shedding

Independent power producer Rural Free State (RFS) has started switching off parts of its solar farms after the Johannesburg High Court dismissed its case against Eskom with costs, Sunday Times reports.

As a result of the ruling, RFS has to throttle its electricity generation. It also halted a 480kW solar project in Frankfort that was nearly finished.

According to the report, RFS is forced to dump half of the electricity it could supply to the town.

RFS and its parent company Rural Maintenance filed court papers against Eskom after the state-owned power utility wanted to block the private power producer from implementing its own load-shedding system.

However, Eskom has said the matter isn’t quite so simple.

In a statement following the judgement, Eskom said the main issue was that RFS had developed its own system for reducing and eliminating load-shedding it calls “voiding”.

In essence, Eskom alleged that RFS was not load-shedding Frankfort’s fair share.

RFS gave Frankfort a reprieve from load-shedding when it did not have the generating capacity to supply the whole town with electricity, Eskom stated.

Eskom warned that RFS’ system was not aligned with national standards that ensure the stability of South Africa’s grid.

It said that Rural Maintenance was required to abide by regulation NRS048–09 of the Nersa-approved National Code of Practice for Emergency Demand Reduction and System Restoration Practices.

Frankfort reduction in load shedding new
Rural Free State chart showing “voiding”

The independent power producer’s photovoltaic solar power stations can supply 3.7MW of electricity.

“We generate about 3.7kVA every day. The town needs about 10kVA daily to run without Eskom. Our installed capacity is 10kVA, but we are using about 7kVA daily,” RFS general manager Gugu Mokoena reportedly told the Sunday Times.

Mokoena explained they divided the town into five zones.

“These zones have different times during the day when they are off. During that time, Eskom will declare a stage. If we are generating way more than Eskom requires for that zone, we don’t load-shed that zone.”

Mokoena said that following the High Court ruling, they are dumping about half of the 3.7kVA they generate daily.

Rural Maintenance CEO Chris Bosch warned at the start of April that, if they lose, they would have to switch off parts of the solar farms while people in the town sit without power.

Bosch said Rural Maintenance had trained staff and invested R100 million in infrastructure.

“Never before have I seen decisions made that go so completely against the needs of a community,” Bosch stated.

“We were caught out with a masterstroke of genius by Eskom.”

The court dismissed Rural Maintenance’s urgent application to preserve the status quo because it could not prove Mafube municipality had authorised it to proceed with litigation.

“We are generating more than the load we are required to shed,” Bosch asserted.

Rural Maintenance is lying, says Eskom

Eskom disputed Rural Maintenance’s claims.

Responding to questions from MyBroadband, Eskom said that not only does RFS not generate enough electricity to meet the town’s full demand, it also doesn’t need to switch off parts of its solar farms.

“The impact of load-shedding on Frankfort can be reduced by Rural Free State using the power from the plant, but load-shedding as a whole cannot be eliminated as their generating capacity is not enough to cover the full demand for electricity,” Eskom said.

“The PV plant does not need to disconnect as implied by Rural Free State.”

Eskom said the independent power producer is welcome to reduce load-shedding in the town.

“Rural Maintenance can use its solar plant to reduce the impact of load-shedding; Eskom has absolutely no objection to it and, in fact, welcomes the use of self-generation,” the state-owned power utility said.

“Like all other towns in the country, they need to reduce a percentage of their Eskom-supplied electricity during load-shedding. Their self-generated electricity can be used at full capacity,” stated Eskom.

“To illustrate the point, if the demand at Frankfort at any given time is 5MW and the PV plant is generating 3MW, the balance of load under consideration will be required to be reduced to comply with the Code.”

Eskom also said Rural Maintenance could continue with self-load-shedding, allowing it to supply electricity to critical infrastructure like water pumps and sewage works.

“Once again, the problem is not related to their use of electricity from the solar plant,” Eskom said.

“It is the fact that they are not adhering to the Code of Practice because they are not reducing their use of Eskom-supplied electricity when a system emergency is declared. The integrity of the grid remains a priority.”

Eskom said it explained this to Rural Maintenance on numerous occasions.

“As per our numerous letters to them, they can continue implementing self-load-shedding as long as they adhere to the approved schedules that they have submitted to us,” Eskom said.

“It is imperative that they comply with the regulations of the NRS048–09 Code of Practice.”



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