Stage 4 and up in Cape Town – what does it look like?

Much alarm, but no real surprise, as the message came through that we can expect Stage 6 (six) loadshedding this evening.

Loadshedding – or rolling blackouts – is the process by which the country cuts off power to different areas at different times because there isn’t enough electricity to go around. The alternative would be not cutting areas off and literally overloading the grid, leading to uncontrolled blackouts and general Armageddon. You can’t just switch the grid back on after an uncontrolled blackout. We could be down for days or weeks.
Oh, and each stage represents 1000MW that we’re short of what we require. So to be missing 6000MW is quite something.

It’s not a good scenario.

In Cape Town’s 23 loadshedding areas, each loadshedding period lasts for 2 hours, plus an additional half hour during which the power is restored. You might get one loadshedding block per area in a Stage 1 or 2 day, and up to three blocks per area in a Stage 3 or 4 day. But once you get beyond that, it gets a bit different.

So what does life in Cape Town beyond Stage 4 look like?

Yes, it’s complicated, but there are plenty of timetables readily available. If you have electricity to be able to access them, of course. It pays to be prepared.

And it pays to cut your electricity usage when you have it. If we were all to do that, we might be able to reduce demand. But even then, it’s all very much out of our hands.

Fugly situation.

Day 591 – Power station being robbed of R100m fuel oil each month fails to deliver much power SHOCK!

Or rather no shock, because no power, amirite?

I’ve been looking at some facts and figures online (when I can, thanks to this infernal, eternal, often diurnal loadshedding) and have made an amazing discovery.

Published a couple of days ago, this slide, presumably from a presentation about the horrific state of our dirty, broken national power grid:

…in which you might well note Tutuka Power Station stuck in bottom place (Kusile isn’t properly commissioned yet) with a somewhat ropey Energy Availability Factor of 34.34%, and this document, released on twitter yesterday evening:

…in which Eskom announces the arrest of several individuals for alleged theft of R100 million worth of fuel oil PER MONTH from [checks notes…] er… Tutuka Power Station.

I mean, amongst a plethora of other questions, “How the hell did no-one notice?” has to be right up there. Or is this merely a drop in the metaphorical Mpumalanga fuel oil ocean? How much fuel oil do you get (or not get, I guess) for R100m each month?

I’m no expert in these sort of things, but could there… could there possibly… be any sort of connection between these two pieces of information?

I guess we’ll probably never know.

Day 501 – New thing go bang

It’s only been a week (note the literal “7 days ago” on the screenshot below) since our occasionally electricity-generating parastatal Eskom proudly, officially added a new big, dirty, coal-fired power station to its big, dirty, coal-fired power station collection:

And it was last night at around 11pm that Unit 4 at Medupi exploded after a hydrogen leak was apparently not dealt with correctly. Hydrogen is used as a coolant [why? Well, see Hydrogen Cools Well, But Safety Is Crucial], some of it leaked and instead of flushing the area with CO2 as per the standard procedure, some air was used at the wrong point and that exploded the place a bit. Here’s Sikonathi Mantshantsha (you may remember him from the proud “it’ll last 50 years” quote just above) again:

“The incident occurred during the activity to displace hydrogen with carbon dioxide and air respectively, for the purposes of finding an external leak. Following the power station preliminary investigation, it appears that while performing this activity air was introduced into the generator at a point where hydrogen was still present in the generator at sufficient quantities to create an explosive mixture, which ignited and resulted in the explosion.”

“It also appears that there was a deviation from the procedure for carrying out this activity.”

Here are some photos: Oops.

I know that it’s deeply uncool (literally) to use coal to make electricity these days, but in South Africa’s defence, two things:
Firstly, coal is plentiful, local, and wonderfully cheap and easy to heap into Mpumalanga power stations, and we simply don’t have the money or the technology for anything else at the moment (shout at me all you want, I get it, but like it or not, you’re going to need a billion* wind farms to match the 4.8GW capacity that each of Kusile or Medupi provides (when they are working), and secondly, two units at Medupi aren’t using any coal at the moment because one has exploded and another has tripped because the one next door exploded.

Another win for the environment.

We’re probably looking at a few more billions of Rands and a couple more years before this 800MW generator is back online, which given our continuing precarious relationship between supply and demand of the sparky stuff, is not good news.

And who knows how long it will last next time? Hopefully a bit longer than a week.

* back of a fag packet calculation

Day 105, part 2 – And perhaps a loadshedding side salad, Sir?

If the massive cold front hitting Cape Town this morning was the starter, and the ongoing virus pandemic was the main course, might I be able to offer you a side salad of loadshedding with your meal, sir?

Side salad because it doesn’t require a microwave or oven, because yes, Eskom spokesperson Sikonathi Mantshantsha was on the radio this morning telling us that:

The generation system is constrained due to the cold front… some of the generation units have broken down. There is a high probability of load shedding during the evenings between five and nine, starting today.

These machines – as we keep reminding the people of South Africa – are quite unreliable and prone to break down when they’re run hard.

We’re seeing high demand due to the cold front. We’ve had to use all our resources – including burning diesel… Even that may not be enough…

Unbelievabeagle.

As the old saying goes: It never rains… (although it clearly does and it clearly is).

So dig out your candles and your blankets and please switch off anything electrical that you don’t need (because maybe we could still avoid this if demand drops enough).

Here’s the PDF of the Cape Town schedule that you’ve buried at the bottom of the kitchen drawer, and it looks like Stage 2 would knock off Areas 3, 4 and 5, 11, 12 and 13 at some point this evening.

Bugger. Thank goodness the good football was on last night

Aside: And it was so, soooo good. 

Anyway, if we are actually running through some sick, twisted menu as described above, I’m going to pass on dessert this time around, thank you very much.

Just the bill, please. And don’t expect a tip.

 

God to call in overseas power company

I have news. Huge, if true.

While the rest of the world was worrying about some microbiological thing or other, SA has been in the grips of a huge bout of loadshedding after jellyfish blocked an inlet pipe at our local nuclear power station.

Actually, this happens more than you might think. 1.73 million results can’t be wrong, right?

But I don’t care about Canada or Sweden or Japan. Our issue is with Koeberg, just up the road. And it seems that we’re likely to get our 980MW back into the grid by Sunday. But will that be soon enough?

Because suddenly, God’s on the job:

I wouldn’t normally believe this sort of nonsense, but this was said with authority – and not just anyone’s authority, but with authority in the might name of Jesus Amen and Amen.

I’m not sure if this is a different Jesus to the one we learned about at school. I think he was called Jesus Christ and not Jesus Amen and Amen. But that was a long time ago and I think it was all made up anyway.

Anyway, given that Mighty God and Jesus Amen and Amen are omnipresent and omnipotent, I think that questions should be asked about whether they had anything to do with the swarm of jellyfish that blocked our power station and prompted this overseas takeover of our power generation. I’m not saying that things were all rosy before, because they really weren’t, but this convenient squishy invertebrate plug being applied to the inlet pipe just up the west coast has certainly paved the way for their sponsored coup, hasn’t it?

Get what I’m saying?

Follow the money. Just saying.

I don’t think that Adele has anything to do with this. She just seems like the spokesperson for the cult on this particular issue.

I’m not big fan of the Mighty God and JAaA, but if this theist-led company sweeps in from overseas, I won’t miss the loadshedding. And if it goes well, then maybe  they can make a start on sorting out this virus thing as well.