Ingula Pumped Storage Scheme
Ingula Update: (Previously published issues)
Ingula: Responsible Development Brochure
Eskom initiated a study on appropriate sites for a pumped storage scheme in the 1980ís. Initially more that 90 appropriate sites were investigated, culminating in the short listing of 3 sites. A pumped storage site needs suitable dam sites relatively close together but at of significant altitudinal difference, suitable geology and available water. The final selection was a site north east of Van Reenenís Pass, spanning the escarpment of the Little Drakensberg straddling the provincial boundary of Free State and KwaZulu Natal. This is also the continental watershed between the Vaal, flowing into the Atlantic Ocean, and the Tugela catchments, flowing into the Indian Ocean.
Please click here for a downloadable .pdf map
History behind the name Ingula
The name change from Braamhoek to Ingula was officially announced in March 2007. Ingula alludes to the creamy contents at the top of the milk calabash. The quest to find an appropriate name for Ingula power station was inspired by the mountains and the river waters, which represent the rich cultural symbols and traditions of the indigenous people on both sides of the border.
The Pumped Storage Scheme consists of an upper and a lower dam; both of approximately 22 million cubic metres water capacity. The dams, 4.6 km apart, are connected by underground waterways, through an underground powerhouse which house, 4 x 333MW pump turbines. During times of peak energy consumption, water will be released from the upper dam through the pump turbines to the lower dam to generate electricity. During times of low energy demand the pump turbines are used to pump the water from the lower dam back up to the upper dam.
Operation of a pumped storage scheme
The project is scheduled to come on line during 2013/14.
Completed sections of the project
Road works: The contract for roads was awarded to Grinaker LTA . Building of roads began in January 2007 and finished in June 2009.
Dams: Both dams are complete with rehabilitation work ongoing (March 2011)
Outlet structure/tailrace: The outlet structure was completed in November 2010
Work currently in progress
Infrastructure: B & E Quanza group was awarded the contract for the quarry. Afriscan was awarded the contracts for water supply, sewage treatment, small access roads and building of temporary Eskom offices.
Work in progress
Civil works: The building of the 1.2 km Exploratory Tunnel by Murray and Roberts, began in 2005 and was completed in June 2007. The Main Access Tunnel contract was awarded to CMI, a consortium of South African and Italian companies. The tunnel was completed in January 2009. Both reservoirs, Bedford Dam and Bramhoek Dam, are complete. The collection of water in Bramhoek Dam commenced on 4 November 2010. The dam is already 100% full (March 2011).
Currently work on the intake canal/headrace is underway as well as excavation of the underground works.
Eskom has taken a decision to manage the areaís surrounding the damís and construction sites as a conservation area. This area, in both the Free State and KwaZulu Natal, is of significant value as a source of water for the highveld, and serves as habitat for a variety of plants, birds and animals. A team of full time professional environmentalists monitor all activities on site, ensuring all legal requirements are met, and that the project operated within the term of the government authorisation.
The Eskom site will be managed as a conservation site, and with the cooperation of landowners in the district, may form the core of a larger conservation area conserving the moist high grasslands of the eastern Free State and northern KwaZulu Natal.
The partnership between BirdLife South Africa (BLSA), Eskom and the Middlepunt Wetland Trust (MWT) launched in March 2004 is aimed at generating benefits at international, national, regional and local levels to offset the negative impacts of the construction and operation of the pumped storage scheme. This will be done effectively by managing environmental impacts and projects relating to the area impacted by the scheme.
Birdlife: More than 200 species of birds have already been sighted at Ingula. One of these being the Wattled Crane which is amongst the top five endangered birds in terms of regulations issued in the National Biodiversity Act.
The white Winged Fluff Tail, one of the endangered species on site.
Wildlife: The threatened Oribi occurs on site, and grey rhebok and steenbok are also present. Historically, the site has been heavily utilised by livestock and large tracts of erosion can be seen. Livestock numbers have been reduced, and eroded areas will be rehabilitated. The area has also been subject to high intensity poaching and illegal plant harvesting. Through the development of a protected area, it is hoped to increase numbers of animals on site, and to in a secure environment, establish viable populations. A reduction in unsustainable activities will improve general conditions on site.
Wetlands: Wetlands on the property serve as continual supply 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 Dept of Tourism, Environmental and Economic Affairs. Rehabilitation done in the past will be continued and the sustainable functioning of the wetlands ensured.
Grasslands: Grasslands are the ecosystem most in need of conservation attention in South Africa, and it is hoped this area will go some way towards conserving a representative part of this system. The cooperation of landowners, possibly through the development of a conservancy, will ensure an improved environment in the area, and will lead to the development of communities in the area, from both a social and economic perspective.
Tristachya leucothrix or Trident grass - the most common grass at Ingula.
Rehabilitation: In addition to the wetlands, there are a variety of habitats on the property, including grasslands, slopes and mountain forests, all including a large number of plant species. Harvesting opportunities will be explored, and if appropriate, sustainable programmes implemented. Programmes to remove vegetation in the construction sites have been initiated. These plants will be used during rehabilitation, and opportunities for propagation are been investigated.
Ecotourism: As part of the conservation programme, a network of walking and hiking trails will be developed, and other ecotourism opportunities investigated and implemented. These include campsites, river trails, birding, cycling, and other ecotourism opportunities. Marketing of the area may lead to an increased demand for accommodation, an opportunity for surrounding landowners and members of the conservancy.
The site aims to be an internationally renowned sustainable conservation area, and all activity on site is done with this long-term objective in mind.
Sound veld management and the control of erosion will improve the value of the property
Bramhoek Dam with Ingula mountain in the background - December 2012
For further information contact the Ingula Visitors Centre at:
Phone: 036 342 3236/3122 or email IngulaVC@eskom.co.za