Dozens of families’ lights now on thanks to microgrid


On Friday, Eskom launched one of its first micro-power networks at the remote Swartkop Dam, about 150 km from Upington, in the Northern Cape.

This microgrid will now provide electricity to 39 households that did not have access to it earlier as it is practically impossible to expand the existing power grids in the area and connect them with others.

Only two other micropower networks, which supply electricity to a small group of people, have previously been deployed in the vicinity of Ficksburg in the Free State and Lynedoch in the Western Cape.

Monde Bala, Eskom’s group head for distribution, says micropower grids offer an “efficient, reliable and easily deployable solution for the geographic electrification of challenging areas that are either difficult to access or require extensive capital expenditure”.

Due to the remote location of the Swartkop Dam, Eskom initially considered laying a 200 km long 132 kV line from the Gordonia substation and establishing a substation at Noenieput. However, it would cost R250 million and Eskom finally decided to establish a micro-grid instead.

Bala says the deployment of a micro power grid at Swartkop Dam serves as proof that micro grids can be established in remote areas that are difficult to reach and where the use of conventional methods of electrification would prove too expensive.

Micropower grids are not only significantly cheaper, but also contribute to the reduction of carbon emissions as the grids make use of renewable energy sources.

Eskom plans to deploy around 100 microgrids across the country by the end of March 2024.

Mpho Makwana, chairman of Eskom’s board, says the Swartkop Dam project confirms Eskom’s commitment to the South African government to assist it in its aim to ensure that every South African has access to electricity.