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Blog | Conservation and development go hand in hand at South Africa’s Ingula pumped storage project
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Conservation and development go hand in hand at South Africa’s Ingula pumped storage project

At the site of the 1,332 MW Ingula pumped storage plant, which is currently in the final stages of development, Eskom is actively taking steps to conserve the environment for future generations. The company has taken a decision to manage the area surrounding the dams and the construction sites as a conservation area.

Ingula pumped storageLocated on the border between the Free State and KwaZulu-Natal, the Ingula site is of significant ecological value as a source of water for the Highveld region and serves as a habitat for a variety of plants, birds and animals.

More than 300 species of birds have already been identified at the Ingula site. One of these, the Wattled Crane, is among the top five critically endangered birds in terms of regulations issued in South Africa’s National Biodiversity Act.

A team of environmental professionals are monitoring all construction activities at the site, ensuring that all legal requirements are met and that the project operates within the terms of government authorisation.

The development of a nature reserve will ensure an improved environment, and will help in the development of communities in the area, both from a social and economic perspective."

Around 1,000 hectares of wetlands on the property serve as a continual supply of water to the Wilge River and springs flow throughout the year. The wetland system is host to a variety of species and is in need of protection following years of overgrazing and inappropriate burning.

The formal conservation of the Wilge River and associated wetlands will be explored in conjunction with the Free State Department of Tourism, Environmental and Economic Affairs.

Eight thousand hectares around the pumped storage scheme are close to being declared a nature reserve. With the co-operation of surrounding landowners, the Ingula nature reserve may form the core of a larger conservation area protecting the moist, high altitude grasslands of the eastern Free State and northern KwaZulu-Natal.

The development of a nature reserve will ensure an improved environment, and will help in the development of communities in the area, both from a social and economic perspective. 

Pumped storage schemes are primarily used to meet peak demands in the electricity system. This type of station can release electricity during periods of peak demand or insufficient capacity and store energy from the system during periods of low demand or excess capacity by pumping water from the lower reservoir to the upper reservoir.

The Bramhoek dam (lower dam) has approximately 26 million cubic metres storage capacity while the Bedford dam (upper dam) has 22 million cubic metres storage capacity. The dams are connected by underground waterways passing through a subterranean powerhouse with four 333 MW units. At Ingula, the dams will enable an energy storage capacity of 21,000 MWh. This equates to approximately 16 hours of generating capacity when all four units are operating simultaneously.