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South Africa’s Eskom Starts Construction Of Its First Utility Scale Battery Energy Storage Project

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We are starting to see a lot of large grid battery projects taking off around the world. Several years ago, the ‘Big Battery” in Australia, the biggest in the world at that time, was making all the headlines. Australia is going big on these battery projects with several other active projects and another one, the massive 850 MW/1680 MWh project in New South Wales by Akaysha Energy, is in the works.

In California, ESS Flow Battery will supply 200 MW/2 GWh of energy storage to the Sacramento Municipal Utility District. In the United Kingdom, Zenobē, the EV fleet and battery storage specialist, also announced this week that is has started construction on groundbreaking battery storage projects to bring its total storage portfolio in Scotland To 1,050 MW / 2,100 MWh. The battery storage projects which will cost £750 million in total are being constructed at Blackhillock, Kilmarnock South, and Eccles. The Blackhillock project is 300 MW / 600 MWh, with Phase 1 (200 MW / 400 MWh) due to go live in H1 2024, Kilmarnock South is 300 MW / 600 MWh, with Phase 1 (200 MW / 400 MWh) due to go live in H2 2024, and Eccles is 400 MW / 800 MWh and due to go live in H1 2026.

The good news is that some of this battery storage action is now coming to South Africa! Today, South Africa’s national electricity utility company Eskom, and Hyosung Heavy Industries, one of the appointed service providers for the Eskom Battery Energy Storage System (BESS) project, announced that the construction of the first energy storage facility under Eskom’s flagship BESS project kicked off yesterday. The kickoff ceremony was held at the Elandskop BESS site, located within Msunduzi and Impendle Local Municipalities in KwaZulu-Natal.

Construction will take between seven and twelve months and the batteries on the site will be charged from the main grid via Eskom’s Elandskop substation. The facility will have a capacity of 8 MW, equivalent to 32 MWh of distributed electricity, enough to power a town such as Howick for four hours. Among the notable benefits of the BESS is that it will boost the network during peak hours, thereby reducing the strain on the network during peak hours.

“The beginning of the construction of the Elandskop BESS is a positive development in our efforts to alleviate the pressure on the national electricity grid,” said André de Ruyter, Eskom Group Chief Executive, speaking at the event. “This is a direct response to the urgent need to address South Africa’s long-running electricity crisis by adding more generation capacity, to the grid, and also to strengthen the grid by adding more storage and transforming capacity.”

Elandskop is part of Phase 1 of Eskom’s BESS project, which includes the installation of approximately 199 MW of additional capacity, with 833 MWh storage of distributed battery storage plants at eight Eskom Distribution substation sites throughout the country. This phase also includes about 2 MW of solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity.

The cost of the project will be approximately R11 billion and is being funded through concessional loans from the World Bank, African Development Bank, and the New Development Bank. The procurement process for this project has been set out by funders and Eskom is in compliance with it and internal governance.

Phase 2 of the project includes the installation of a further 144 MW of storage capacity, equivalent to 616 MWh, at four Eskom distribution sites and one transmission site. The solar PV capacity in this phase will be 58 MW.

The BESS project will utilize large scale utility batteries with the capacity of 1,440 MWh per day and a 60 MW PV capacity. It will be one of the largest BESS projects to be developed and implemented in South Africa.

“Eskom has identified distributed storage as an alternative to support renewable energy expansion in South Africa and we have taken the necessary steps to ensure the successful implementation of the BESS project,” said Velaphi Ntuli, Eskom’s General Manager: Distribution, Operations Enablement.

All Phase 1 sites are planned to be commissioned by 30 June 2023 and Phase 2 by December 2024. I am always excited to read about big battery projects that are coming up in the various parts of the world. It’s really good to see some here in Southern Africa.

Image from Eskom


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Remeredzai Joseph Kuhudzai has been fascinated with batteries since he was in primary school. As part of his High School Physics class he had to choose an elective course. He picked the renewable energy course and he has been hooked ever since. At university he continued to explore materials with applications in the energy space and ending up doing a PhD involving the study of radiation damage in High Temperature Gas Cooled Nuclear Reactors. He has since transitioned to work in the Solar and Storage industry and his love for batteries has driven him to obsess about electric vehicles.


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