South Africa generates approximately 85% of its energy from coal. The national power utility, Eskom, can generate up to 45,000 megawatts per hour. Still, it has been unable to supply even 27,000 MWh, giving rise to power cuts or load-shedding that can last several hours a day.
According to the latest news, load-shedding has cost South Africa 1.2 trillion rands since its inception and has considerably increased the cost of doing business. Households and businesses are now without power for up to 10 hours daily because of load-shedding, which leaves business owners and citizens discouraged. “The country is in a dire situation due to the lack of generation availability”, said Mervyn Naidoo, CEO of ACTOM.
One of the most tangible effects of load shedding to everyday business owners is the extra amount they pay each month to maintain standard operational levels – whether installing solar, UPSes or fuelling large-scale diesel generators.
With South African businesses and industries feeling discouraged, ACTOM’s market-leading technology and advanced products are perfectly positioned to address the issues facing the electro-mechanical industry. ACTOM offers large-scale infrastructure installations to smaller projects and support services. With their 12 specialist and fully integrated divisions, they are committed to meeting their client’s energy needs without compromising the ability of future sustainability generations.
The concept of a power island is growing substantial momentum worldwide and has already successfully been implemented in a few countries. The concept, simply put, means the inde-pendent operation of a whole network or part of a network that is isolated after being disconnected from the interconnected system and having at least one power-generating module or HVDC System supplying power to this network and controlling the frequency and voltage.
These networks offer the best solution to meet the growing electrical demands of industrialised countries. Green power islands also reduce the facilities’ carbon footprint and maintain a cost-effective management plan by reducing energy costs and providing a significant return on investment.
There are two conditions under which a power island can operate:
Synchronised mode: This is when the plant is connected to a distribution system, which in turn is connected to the utility grid. In this case, power can be given to the grid, or if required, power can also be extracted from the grid. This method is enabled in both captive and independent power plants.
Islanding mode: A power plant is said to be in islanding mode if it is dissociated from the distribution system or power grid. In this case, the plant runs on house load, i.e., a generator will generate only to cater for the in-house power requirement.
Generally, plants run synchronously with the grid because there is always some mismatch between power generation and demand. Also, if due, for some reason, a power plant trips, it requires starting power that can be drawn from the grid. But usually, plants have their islanding mode enabled, which will automatically island or isolate the plant if there is some external disturbance in the grid, such as voltage dip or erratic frequency change, thus, protecting the plant from external disturbance.
In the grid-connected mode, the host grid handles frequency and voltage regulation. However, in an islanded operation, a microgrid must be able to regulate internal frequency and voltage with proper control. Droop control is the commonly accepted operation for power sharing among DERs in a microgrid.
ACTOM offers a complete turnkey power island solution and is a leading supplier of premium specifications and standard low-voltage motors, gearboxes, speed reducers and motor starters. They custom design and manufacture medium voltage motors for the mining, industrial, processing and utilities markets in South Africa and globally.
According to Naidoo, “As ACTOM, we can deliver every element of a power island. We manufacture the boiler, the turbine, the generator, and the associated switchgear and control. So, ACTOM offers the full scope of products for an effective power island”.
Here, the 12 ACTOM divisions combine by delivering an integrated solution within an efficient value chain.
John Thompson, a division of ACTOM (Pty) Ltd, having a long history and success stories of their unique boiler design and manufacturing, is a global leader in energy and environmental solutions through value engineering and innovation.
They focus on serving their global customers with tailor-made Boilers, Environmental Solutions (including Air Pollution Control), Engineering, Energy Management, Manufacturing, Spares, Maintenance and Training, and they specialise in generating power for sugar mills.
Their engineering teams can accurately simulate virtually any scenario using the latest computational fluid dynamics technology.
When maintenance is needed, ACTOM’s electro-mechanical maintenance, service and repairs specialist, Marthinusen & Coutts, include the maintenance and servicing of machinery and equipment for the mining, rail transportation, utilities, marine, and oil and gas industries.
They are a specialist repairer of power generation equipment, medium and low voltage AC and DC motors, transformers and coil manufacture, and the full range of engineering, testing, diagnostics, balancing and maintenance services.
A power island will not be complete without an IoT solution. ACTOM uses loT devices and artificial intelligence to provide tailor-made solutions to their customers through visibility in the process.
They digitise factories, and equipment and design programs which include applications in protection and control and static power. They incorporate smart intelligence so that the equipment enables an increase in productivity and factory efficiency and a reduction in downtime and wastage.
Static Power specialises in the design and manufacture of AC and DC standby equipment for the Industrial, Telecomms, rail and renewable energy markets, including thyristor type charger (Micro Process Controlled option), industrial batteries, power supplies, industrial UPS, furnace control panels, AC/DC distribution boards and battery tripping units. Static Power has embarked on turnkey solutions for renewable Energy and battery energy storage solutions. All systems are designed and engineered to suit their purpose for local and export markets. ACTOM’s success is testimony to the quality of products and services Static Power is committed to providing to the local and export markets.
Some of ACTOM’s success stories are evident in their completed projects and efforts to keep the lights on. The Ngodwana Biomass Fuel Plant biomass power plant installation, established under South Africa’s Independent Power Producer Programme, was completed as a joint venture between John Thompson’s Industrial Watertube Boilers, an ACTOM division – and Lesedi Nuclear Services. The 25MW power plant is adjacent to Mpumalanga’s Sappi Ngodwana pulp mill. According to Russel Warren, General Manager, John Thomson, the installation took 20 months. John Thomson will operate and maintain the entire plant, comprising the boiler, turbine, and balance of the plant, over a five-year contract period.
ACTOM Power Transformers has designed several low-cost transform¬ers for wind farms, including 157 x 2 700kVA pad-mounted, oil-natural, and air-natural transformers. Consolidated Power Projects, the electrical BOP contractor for the wind farms, Noupoort, Khobab and Loeriesfontein, ordered their transformers from ACTOM. ACTOM had previously also supplied the Kouga Wind farm project. Newer transformers also accommodate the load-break switch and current limiting fuses inside the transformer tank by mounting them under oil instead of the usual external arrangement applied to package transformers.
This reduces the cost. ACTOM supplies electrical equipment, services, and Balance of Plant to any renewable energy projects. The Nordex Kouga Wind Farm in the Eastern Cape is a renewable energy project which makes the most of the fresh onshore breezes that sweep the Eastern Cape coastline of South Africa. Nordex engaged trusted South African contractors Power Construction and ACTOM to undertake the civil and electric work.
Marthinusen & Coutts is Africa’s largest after-market service provider of electrical and mechanical rotating machines. The division works extensively on hydropower plants and has recently been contracted to refurbish a synchronous condenser at the Inga River hydro project in the DRC. “ACTOM is involved in many power projects in the African market, including pump storage schemes like Ingula and the Drakensberg Pump Storage scheme. This reaffirms ACTOM’s position in the whole power island supply chain”, Naidoo added.
With renewable power generation and solutions on everyone’s lips, it’s evident that we should look at our local manufacturers offering their unique value chain of services.
“ACTOM offers the complete Engineering, Procurement and Construction value chain to the installation of the plant, and then beyond that, the actual operation and maintenance of the plant. We take the subcomponents from the cradle to the grave, where we have the after-market services and repairs capability. ACTOM can manufacture all these products and support it through its full life cycle and ultimately facilitate the customer in receiving an optimised plant performance,” Naidoo concluded.