In May 2007, when South African utility Eskom broke ground on Medupi, the country’s first new powerplant since the 1980s, in some cases it was business as usual. The generating station would be coal-fired, sited next to the supplying mine and—with a 4,800-MW rated capacity—immense. Medupi, by far the largest powerplant under construction in Africa, will be one of the largest in the world upon completion. It will account for about 11% of South Africa’s electricity generating capacity.
Kusile, another new plant with a commissioning schedule about 18 months behind Medupi’s, has an identical “six-pack configuration,” with six identical 800-MW units configured in tandem. By 2015-16, when both plants are scheduled to be in full operation, they will generate nearly a quarter of the country’s electricity baseload. In addition to the benefits of economies of scale, “We conglomerate powerplants near mines to keep the distance coal is transported to a minimum,” says Roman Crookes, Eskom’s project manager.