The contribution of pumped storage schemes to energy generation in South Africa

The total installed capacity of the large pumped storage schemes (PSSs) in South Africa is at present some 2910 MW. There are four large PPSs operating currently around the country, with the Steenbras (180 MW) being the municipal asset of the City of Cape Town, and three plants owned by the national entity Eskom namely the Drakensberg (1000 MW), Palmiet (400 MW) and now new Ingula (1330 MW).

The utility has a few another conventional hydropower plants owned and administered together with the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS), two situated on the Orange River and others attached to the dams on the perennial rivers in the Eastern Cape Province. These hydropower plants do not have the same function as the pumped storages, but all can generate hydro-energy within a few minutes contrary to the coal-fired energy generation plants, most of the located in one specific area of South Africa.

All installed PSSs are serving South Africa as conventional energy storage sites supplementing hydro-energy to the national grid in the specific times of the high demand for electricity. A PSS comprises two large water storage areas (typically two sizeable dam facilities), one lower and the other at the upper elevation providing usually for static head between 100 and 700 m. The choice of a location of a PSS is depending on the availability of fresh or saline water (if a plant is located on the sea coastline) and a suitable geo-morphological configuration.

However, a PSS requires certain amount of energy for pumping of raw water to the upper storage which is effectively a battery of energy ready to be utilized when needed. The requirements for essentially two storage reservoirs (on an ocean coast not absolute necessity) and associated pumping and generation infrastructure together with typically large penstocks (i.e. connecting pipeline between lower and upper storages), dictate for rather extensive initial capital costs, but ongoing benefits outweigh typically the capital invested.

There are four large PPSs operating currently around in South Africa, with the Steenbras (180 MW) being the municipal asset of the City of Cape Town, and other three plants are owned by the national entity Eskom SOC namely the Drakensberg (1000 MW), Palmiet (400 MW) and now new Ingula (1330 MW). Since early 1980 the Drakensberg PSS has been for many years listed amongst the top twenty PSSs globally installed, sharing fifteenth place for many years with another 1000 MW PSS capacity installed in Iran.

In recent twenty years the capacity of pumped storages increased several fold with China having
now some 23 100 MW installed (accounting only for the PSSs above or equal to 1000 MW), with another 6600 MW under construction. The USA with some total installed pumped storage capacity of 14 800 MW at present, identified another 40 viable sites to be developed, primarily at existing lower dam to economize on the costs and optimising on utilisation of infrastructure assets and water resources.

The tendency worldwide is to develop PSSs in conjunction with a development of other renewable resources as wind and solar PV. The coastline PSS locations are investigated in several countries as well as at several island locations to avoid the costs of the lower dam storage, using the saline water and other renewable in pumping. The examples which can given are: first PSS using saline water in Okinawa, Japan; seawater PSS on the Isle of Lewis in Outer Hebrides, Scotland; a hybrid hydro-wind PSS on Canary Islands; etc.

Table 1: The position of SA’s PSSs amongst other installations of the same kind.
Ranking amongst other PSSs Pumped Storage Scheme (PSS) Installed capacity (MW) Country of installation location
1 Bath Country 3003 USA
2 Huizhou 2448 China
3 Guangdong 2400 China
4 Okutataragi 1932 Japan
5 Ludington 1872 USA
6 Tianhuangping 1836 China
7 Tumut-3 1800 Australia
8 Grand Maison Dam 1800 France
9 La Muela II 1772 Spain
10 Dinorwig 1728 United Kingdom
USA (1652 MW), Taiwan (1602 MW), Japan (1600 MW), USA (1566 MW), China (1500), Japan (1500 MW), Bulgaria (1455 MW), India (1450 MW) (Wikipedia 2017).
19 Ingula 1332 South Africa
Between SA’s Ingula and Drakensberg pumped storages (accounting for the PSSs above or equal to 1000 MW), China has installed pumped storage capacity of some 10 900 MW and another 4 000 MW capacity is listed after the Drakensberg PSS)
57 Drakensberg 1000 South Africa
NB: There are eight PSSs under construction at present, with Fenguing PSS in China with capacity to be installed at 3600 MW to be the largest in the world when completed.

It is estimated that the overall pumped storage capacity worldwide is at present some 165 000 MW with China leading the development. The development of pumped storages on the African continent is presently far behind, with South Africa leading at present with a 2910 MW of PSS capacity installed

History of development and key parameters of existing PSSs in South Africa

The South Africa’s hydro-electricity generation sector has a legacy of almost fifty years since early 1970 when the Gariep Hydro had been commissioned at the large dam on the Orange River. The sector benefited (now already for some 35 years), besides generating hydro-electricity from a few conventional hydropower plants owned and administered together between the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) and Eskom also for its energy storage and a peak supplementary supply from the country’s existing pumped storage schemes (PSS).

Eskom together with the DWS generate hydroelectricity from several conventional hydroelectric plants, two situated on the Orange River and others attached to the dams on the perennial rivers in the Eastern Cape Province. These hydropower plants do not have the same function as the pumped storages, but all can generate hydro-energy within a few minutes contrary to the coal-fired energy generation plants and even the nuclear energy generation.

Table 2: The hydro-electricity generation installations in South Africa.
Hydroelectric plant Location, river or town (province) Owner/administrator/operator Installed capacity (MW)
Ncora Ncora River (E. Cape) Eskom       2
First Falls Umtata River (E. Cape) Eskom       6
Second Falls Umtata River (E.Cape) Eskom      11
Colley Wobbles Mbashe River (E. Cape) Eskom      42
Vanderkloof Orange River (N. Cape) DWS/Eskom    240
Gariep Orange River (N. Cape) DWS/Eskom    360
Steenbras PSS Cape Town (W. Cape) City of Cape Town    180
Drakensberg PSS Bergville (KZulu-Natal) DWS/Eskom 1000
Palmiet PSS Grabow (W. Cape) DWS/Eskom    400
Ingula PSS Van Reenen (KZulu-Natal) DWS/Escom 1332
NB: There several hydro-electric schemes of significance (e.g. Stortemelk, Neusberg, etc.) connected recently to the national grid developed under the DoE’s REI4Ps and owned by the IPPs.

Steenbras pumped storage scheme

The installation is located some 60 km from Cape Town at the foothill of the Sir Lowry’s Pass. The planning and design processes had taken six years. It is a first PSS installed in South Africa and also the first on the African continent. The Steenbras Power Station (180 MW) is owned and operated by the City of Cape Town and it is in operation since 1979. The scheme comprises upper dam storage with water run to the lower dam through turbines coupled to generators.

The hydro-electricity generated is absorbed into the local (municipal) grid. Two dam storages at different elevations of some 300 m are connected by a low-pressure tunnel installed through the mountain range connected to the high-pressure tunnel connected to a steel penstock of 3,5 m in diameter. Most of the penstock is buried below the ground to reduce the environmental impacts.

Four 45 MW pump/turbine machines are located in pairs, each pair situated at the bottom of a shaft 40 m deep to provide for necessary minimum submergence when pumping 27 m below the surface of the lower storage dam. The transient pressure effects (e.g. water hammer and surges) caused while changing from pumping to generating modes are compensated through the surge shaft situated at the end of the low pressure tunnel. The maximum water flow when generating is 75 m3/sec, if all four turbines operating at the same time. Water can be pumped back to the upper storage at the rate
60 m3/sec and it will take 12 hours to fill the upper dam.

The Steenbras PSS is serving in reducing the peak loads of the metropolitan electricity supply system. The generation output is automatically controlled so as to maintain the Eskom power in-feed to the CT Metro constantly at a predetermined monthly target demand. This way the PSS serves to the CT City for almost 40 years for the initial investment cost of R 60-million in 1979.

As far as critical maintenance is concerned, the steel pipe of penstock was refurbished with new epoxy lining after some 18 years in operation. The hydraulic machines have been subjected to extensive refurbishment due to wear and tear between 1990 and 1996.

Drakensberg pumped storage scheme

The scheme is situated between the foothill and upper plateau of the lower Drakensberg with the upper storage in the Free State and lower storage in the KwaZulu-Natal provinces of South Africa. This is the first large PSS in SA installed in collaboration between the Eskom and DWS. The PSS has a dual purpose. The primary purpose is to generate hydro-energy when Eskom is experiencing the peak demands within the national electricity grid. The second very important purpose is to supplement the water collected in the KwaZulu-Natal by the system of canals, weirs and dams for the inter-basin water transfer to Sterkfontein Dam impoundment which is an integral component of the Thukela-Vaal Water transfer Scheme (WTS), one of the largest and most complex in SA.

The original WTS was completed in 1979 without of the PSS. Subsequently, Eskom together with DWS redesigned the original pumping component of the Thugela-Vaal WTS, replacing the Jagersrust pumping station and adjacent feeding canals to Sterkfontein Dam with the underground pumped storage system and installing 27-million m3 Driekloof Dam situated at the very upper reaches of the Sterkfontein Dam. The Drakensberg PSS was commissioned in 1982 comprising extensive underground excavations of tunnels, halls, chambers and shafts. The machine hall contains four
250 MW reversible turbine/generator units. The vertical surge shaft of 14 m in diameter is excavated to a height of 86 m above the headrace tunnels.

During the generating mode water is drawn from the upper located storage of the Driekloof Dam situated in the Sterkfontein Dam and discharged into the lower 29-million m3 Kilburn Dam located at the bottom of the escarpment. The Driekloof Dam is pumped full, mainly during the nights (at the low demand periods) with certain amount of water overflowing into the Sterkfontein Dam to supplement the key stand-by storage of the T-V WTS. When a pumping rate head is 71 m3/sec, it takes about
35 hours to pump the Driekloof Dam full against 41l m net head. The original type of cycle operation is weekly and the cycle efficiency of about 73%.

Fig. 1: Eskom long-term programme for development of viable pumped storages.

According to Moodley (2002) the operation and maintenance processes at the Drakensberg PSS started to be hampered around 1995 (i.e. after some 13 years in operation) by repeated failures of the plant’s excitation control system causing significant production and rehabilitation losses. An refurbishment project was implemented between 1999 and 2001, which restored the installation’s excitation control system to near-100 percent reliability. At present three of four Drakensberg generator units are being modernized by a contractor from overseas, to be fully operational in 2018.

Palmiet pumped storage scheme

The 400 MW pumped storage scheme is an integral to the Palmiet River GWS situated near Grabow in the Western Cape Province. The scheme has also dual purpose similar as the Drakensberg PSS, providing for the generation of hydro-energy between the upper 17-million m3 Rockview Dam and lower 15-million m3 Kogelberg Dam storages and supplementing water to nearby Steenbras Dam PSS reservoir. The overspill water from the Rockview Dam is to supply the water supply system of Cape Town Metropolis. This is then also an inter-basin water transfer scheme. The scheme has been developed jointly by Eskom and DWS and commissioned in 1988 after some 5 years of construction predominantly within the Kogelberg Nature Reserve.

The connecting conduit between upper and lower dam comprises a headrace tunnel, which is 750 m long and 6,2 m in diameter. Water flows through a 130 m deep shaft to a pressure tunnel of 482 m long and 5,4 m in diameter and reaching subsequently cut-and-cover steel penstock, 561 m long and 5,4 m in diameter. Two reversible 200 MW pump/generator units are housed on the right bank of the Kogelberg River.  From the operation point of view, the time required to pump 15-million m3 is about 40 hours. The original type of operational cycle is weekly with the cycle efficiency of some 78%.

The International Hydropower Association (IHA) awarded to the Palmiet PSS its 2003 Blue Planet Prize for a contribution to sustainable development and good practice in utilising hydropower resources.

Ingula pumped storage scheme

This scheme is situated not very far from the Drakensberg PSS and is also located between lower Drakensberg plateau and its foothills some 23 km from Van Reenen Pass. The upper 19-million m3 Bedford Dam and lower 22-million m3 Braamhoek Dam are situated at some 470 m difference in elevation. The dams are connected by a system of underground waterways with a powerhouse hall housing four reversible 333 MW pump/turbine units. Two 6,1 m in diameter inclined headrace tunnels, each 1940 m long provide for the flow of water to the turbine/generator units. The underground system comprises twin surge chambers, twin extended draft tubes and a single tailrace tunnel.

The upper storage dam can be pumped by all four units within 21 hours and is designed to provide for 16 hours of generation. The overall efficiency of the scheme is determined at 76%.

The Ingula PSS installation has been finalized in the middle of 2016 after some ten years under construction. Eskom synchronised Unit 1 with the national grid in June 2016. The pumped storage peaking capacity in South Africa has thus increased by 333 MW to present operational 1733 MW. The full connection to the national grid, by remaining 1000 MW, is anticipated by late 2017 or early 2018 when all units will be synchronised with the national grid.

The cost of this PSS amounted to-date to R25-billion, increased from the original estimate by at least R7-billion.

According to the technical paper by Otieno, et al (2017) discusses the likely attack of soft water on the Ingula’s concrete tunnel lining. Numerous samples were laboratory tested. The samples tested indicated possible reduction of tunnel system efficiency by about 3% down to about 93% over some ten years of water tunnels in operation. The results are a warning that in years to come the water conduit tunnels will have to be likely relined to maintain the integrity of tunnel infrastructure and required efficiencies.

As-built characteristics and parameters of pumped storage schemes in South Africa

The characteristics and essential parameters gathered from as-built PSSs in South Africa together with the time series of PSSs outputs since installation of the Drakensberg PSS in the early 1980 are summarized in the following tables:

Table 3: Summary on civil details of PSS installations in South Africa.
Name of PSS (owner) Installed capacity (MW) Names of PSS upper and lower reservoir Active storage (106 m3) Type of upper and lower  storage dam walls Purpose of PSS installation
Steenbras (CTCC)



Upper Steenbras 31 Earth-fill embkmt. wall Power gen. & water transfer
Steenbras (lower) 3 Earth-fill embkmt. wall
Drakensberg (Eskom)



Driekloof (upper) 27 Rock-fill embkmt wall Power gen. & water transfer
Kilburn (lower) 29 Earth-fill embkmt wall
Palmiet (Eskom)



Rockview (upper) 17 Rock-fill with clay core Power gen. & water transfer
Kogelberg (lower) 15 Concrete gravity arch
Ingula (Eskom)



Bedford (upper) 22 Concrete faced rock-fill Power generation
Bramhoek (lower) 26 Rollcrete gravity wall
Sources of info: Generated from various public domain documentation available at the ESKOM, Cape Town City Council (CTCC), SA Institution of Civil Engineers (SAICE) and Dept. of Water and Sanitation (DWS).

The energy generation sector in SA represented by the Department of Energy and executed by the Eskom recognises the advantages in having hydro-pumped storages as the energy storage provision, a stand-by and peaking generation facilities to some 40 000 MW base-load thermal (coal-fired) plants (ten plants are in operation at present, three plants are return-to-service and two new plants are being build). It takes a hydro-pumped storage plant two to three seconds of a hydraulic starting time and some 15 seconds to get into full load production. The PSSs are still to date the most efficient storages (i.e. batteries) of energy. Table 4 below illustrates the details on pumping/generating equipment for existing plants and the newly developed Ingula PSS.

Table 4: Summary on pumping/generating machinery of existing PSS installations in SA.
Name and (owner) of PSS Total peaking capacity (MW) Average gen. head (m) Pump/turbine unit flow rates (m3/sec) Type of reversible  unit Year of plant commission
Steenbras (CTCC) 4 units at 45 MW
= 180





Francis pump/turbine



Drakensberg (Eskom) 4 units at 250 MW = 1000





Francis Pump/turbine



Palmiet (Eskom) 2 units at 200 MW = 400





Single stage Francis p/turbine



Ingula (Eskom) 4 units at 333 MW = 1332





Francis pump/turbine Unit 1 in 2016
NB:  Very little information is available on the maintenance of particularly the PSSs belong to Eskom.

From the analysis of the characteristics and as-built parameters of the PSSs developed to-date in South Africa the general planning/design guidelines applied by the planners and designers adhered primarily to the following:

  • A large PSS site should have a static head between 100 and 700 m.
  • A gradient of at least 1:10 between the upper and lower reservoirs is typically applied.
  • The assessment of water availability at selected site including water losses and evaporation is essential to establish.
  • To prevent cavitations to the pump/turbine assembly should be placed at least 25 m below the lower reservoir level.
  • The viability of a PSS is depending on the land configuration and subsequent costs in developing the upper and lower reservoir.
  • Where a lower reservoir already exists, the priority is given to such a site, reducing thus the overall investment costs of a PSS.
  • The PSS installations are build in SA for the peaking loads and as the stand-by facilities to the coal-fired base load power plants.
  • Three of four PSS installations analysed are having a dual purpose – generating hydro-energy and providing for an inter-basin water transfer.
  • Due to environmental issues most, if not all, of a PSS infrastructure is buried and/or excavated underground.
  • The key stakeholders in a development, O&M and upgrading of the PSSs are the Department of Water and Sanitation, Department of Energy and the national electricity supplier Eskom.

Ntsone, et al (2016), established that Eskom is finding difficult to cope with the demands for electricity, which are notoriously outstripping (almost daily) the conventional supply options. The existing PSSs are to generate far more frequently than they were operationally designed for (i.e. weekly operational cycle). This implies that Eskom pumped storage installations are forced to change from a weekly balance to be balanced on a daily basis.

Table 5: The South African’s power stations output between 1970 and 2016 (GWh).
Year Coal fired stations Nuclear station Hydro-electric stations Diesel & gas turbines RE sources W + IPPs Pumped storage stations The commissioning date and capacity of the PSSs in SA
1969/70 37 321
1970/71 40 645 94
1971/72 43 662 813
1972/73 49 570 189
1973/74 55 141 1110
1974/75 60 400 1098
1975/76 64 309 1853 26
1976/77 65 114 1924 12
1977/78 69 004 1887 11
1978/79 74 485 1144 14 Steenbras  (180 MW)
1979/80 82 342   992 28
1980/81 95 675 1653 81 415 Drakensberg  (1000 MW)
1981/82 100 217 1016 17 1519
1982/83 100 738   595 5 1957
1983/84 110 094 3925   560 8  994
1984/85 113 941 5315   624 0 2107
1985/86 114 298 8803 1623 2 1785
1986/87 122 947 6167 1617 2 1774 Palmiet (400 MW)
1987/88 123 777 10 493 3162 2 1403
1988/89 128 304 11 099 2759 3 1039
1989/90 134 744 8449 1010 3 1841
1990/01 135 743 9144 1980 0 1804
1991/02 136 830 9288 752 4 1333
1992/03 145 514 7255 146 0 1345
1993/04 148 003 9697 1074 2 1517
1994/05 151 730 11 301 529 0 1274
1995/06 163 541 11 775 1319 0 2220
1996/07 170 464 12 647 2092 0 2608
1997/08 165 473 13 601 1596 3 2420
1998/09 165 665 12 837 726 0 2590
1999/00 172 362 13 010 1343 1 2591
2000/01 175 223 10 719 2061 0 1587
2001/02 181 651 11 991 2357 0 1738
2002/03 194 046 12 663 777 0 2732
2003/04 202 171 14 280 720 0 2981
2004/05 251 914 16 912 903 0 Wind + IPPs 3675
2005/06 206 606 11 293 1141 78 3 2867**
2006/07 215 211 11 780 2443 62 2 2947**
2007/08 222 908 11 317 751 1153 1 2979**
2008/09 211 941 13 004 1082 143 2 2772**
2009/10 215 940 12 806 1274 49 1 2742**
2010/11 220 219 12 099 1960 197 2 +     1833* 2953**
2011/12 218 212 13 502 1904 709 2 +     4107* 2962**
2012/13 214 807 11 954 1077 1904 1+      3516* 3006**
2013/14 209 483 14 106 1036 3621 2+      3671* 2881**
2014/15 204 838 13 794 851 3709 1+      6022* 3107**
2015/16 199 888 12 237 688 3936 311+  9033* 2919** Ingula Unit 1 (332 MW)
2016/17 200 893 15 026 579 29 345+11529* 3294**  
Notes: * The amount of GWh obtained from the IPPs. ** The amount of GWh required for pumping is on average about 1000 GWh over above production  (i.e. about 30 % on average). ***A PSS is a net consumer of energy.

 Potential for future development of pumped storages in South Africa

Firmly evaluated potential for future development of PSSs 

Now, after Ingula PSS peaking capacity (1332 MW) will go fully on a stream, the future development of another PSS in South Africa appears to be postponed until 2030. Eskom already between 1985 and 1995 identified several highly potential PSS sites around South Africa. Louwinger (2008) highlights that all selected sites were scrutinised according to the environmental, technical, economical and legal requirements. The next large PSSs to be developed by Eskom after Ingula PSS, were listed the Lima PSS (renamed to Tubatse PSS) and Mutale PSS.

The layout in Fig. 1 above illustrates other six potential sites besides Ingula PSS suitable for future development. Most promising is a site named Lima (Tubatse) where it is needed only to develop an upper reservoir as the lower very large De Hoop Dam impoundment was commissioned in 2014. The purpose of this dam storage is to provide water for the residential/industrial use in the northern region of South Africa. As the water requirements of a PSS are non-consumptive, this scheme would be not impacting on the dam storage (only marginal evaporation losses at the upper reservoir) and can be likely build for some 25% less than the Ingula PSS, if implemented soon.

The development of Tubatse PSS (planned at 1500 MW capacity) has been detailed around 2008/09  and Eskom has been that far as applying for the generation license from NERSA. However, any development of this site has been put on a back-burner. In the meantime it is obvious that Eskom need more peaking capacity due to recent changes in generation patterns, connecting and receiving electricity amounts from several IPPs and grappling with reduced demands for electricity as the national economy is stagnating. See Table 5 for relevant patterns observed within energy generation mix operated by the Eskom.

Position of potential PSSs in future energy mix in SA

According to the SA’s Integrated Resource Plan 2010 (IRP 2010-2030) and its recent revision, the country is contemplating to participate in developing of a hydropower installation at Inga Falls on the Congo River in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). A capacity of a 2500 MW from the overall to be installed capacity at the Inga site is offered by the DRC to SA. In the local hydropower terms, this is a capacity termed as the “imported hydropower” which would be rather expensive to pay for and particularly maintaining transmission over very long distances as well as paying for the security of supply. There are vital issues needing more explanation from the socio-political platform.

Also, two coal-fired power stations (Kusile and Medupi) are nearing their completion, increasing the overall energy generation capacity of SA. These two plants are base-load installation as far a generation is concerned and their production is necessary to be supported by an additional peaking capacity, which should not come from by increasing the diesel and gas turbines generation.

Table 6: Energy mix generation capacity as per IRP 2010 to 2030.
Energy sources mix *Final policy adjusted IRP 2010 to 2030 **New capacity layout  introduced/revised
MW % MW %



Coal 16 383 29,0 6250 14,7
OCGT (diesel)  4930 8,7 3910   9,2
CCGT (gas) 2370 4,2 2370   5,6



Pumped storages (PSSs) 1332 2,4
Nuclear 9600 17,0 9600 22,6
Imported hydropower  2659 4,7 2609   6,1




Wind  9200 16,3 8400 19,7
CSP  1200   2,1 1000   2,4
PV  8400 14,8 8400 19,7
SHP, biomass, landfill, etc.  465 0,8
Total 56 539 100 42 539 100
Source: *IRP 2010 (May 2011), ** Uncommitted in 2015, SHP = Small Hydro Power

As illustrated in Table 6 above, the group of Alternatives – PSSs lists the capacity of 1332 MW which represents the Ingula PSS capacity now already installed. No further PSS capacity is listed in the New Capacity Layout and the Draft Revision 2016 of the IRP 2010 also does not indicate any PSS capacity to be developed before 2030.

The prospects in development of small scale pumped storage with other renewable

 South Africa is blessed with rather extensive water supply infrastructure developed over the years in both the urban and rural context. There are several viable opportunities in developing small scale pumped storages together with other renewable energy resources and technologies (i.e. primarily PV-solar in SA). The suitable technologies are now on the market and prices becoming affordable to the municipalities and even to the rural communities, if eligible for the subsidies or grants.

Most suitable location for a small scale pumped storage within a water supply system would be already existing elevated concrete reservoir, where only a lower another concrete/steel reservoir is needed to be installed (i.e. if the potable water supply is going to be involved). The research has been done particularly in Europe and several suitable sites selected. Table 7 given below illustrates a theoretical sizing for a small scale pumped storages of 2, 5, and 10 MW.

 Table 7: Examples of the small scale pumped storages within existing water supply system.
Item of pumped storage scheme Size of pump as turbine (PaT)
2 MW 5 MW 10 MW
Rate of flow in PaT (m3/sec) 0,809 2,023 4,046
Pipeline size (mm) 700 1000 1200
Friction head of pipeline: steel material


7,2 m


9,5 m


14,4 m

Friction head of pipeline (fibre glass option with length of 1200 m)


4,0 m


5,3 m


8,0 m

Capacity of reservoirs (m3) 20 000 40 000 80 000
NB: The PaT’s pumping demand can be connected to the PV-solar systems.

At present there is no any small scale pumped storage system installed in South Africa. However, the installation of pumps as turbines is now tested at the Annlin Reservoir by the Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality in Pretoria.

The prospects in development of PSS in Lesotho

Lesotho has already a 72 MW hydro-electric scheme installed at the Muela Dam situated at the Katse Tunnel Outlet as a component of the LHWP Phase 1.

LHWC together with the local consultants are conducting a master plan study of the Kobong (or Monont’sa) 1200 MW pumped storage scheme. The selected site in close proximity of the Katse Dam impoundment offers max gross head of 600 m. Existing Katse Dam impoundment is the location of the lower reservoir and only upper dam storage will need to be installed.


A pumped storage scheme is effectively a large energy storage battery, energy is stored in the form of water during off-peak periods and released during the peak electricity demands. A PSS using reversible pump/turbine assembly is so far most effective way to store electrical energy at acceptable costs and is the source of energy which can deliver positive or negative reserve to the grid for balancing intermittent resources such as wind and solar. A grid needs energy for rapid balancing the PSS can provide such, and new pumped storage installations benefit from the technological achievements of the recent past in the development of hydraulic and electrical machines and progresses in automatisation.


[1] Eskom: Annual Reports, between 1969/70 and 2016/17.
[2] F Louwinger: “Case study of Ingula and Lima pumped storage schemes”, Energize, May 2008.
[3] M Ntsoane, D Booyens and N Pillay: “Hydro Pumped Storage Dynamics”, Eskom SOS, 2016.
[4] M Otieno, M Alexander and J du Plessis: “Soft water attack on concrete tunnel lining in the Ingula”
[5] PSS: “Assessment of concrete resistance and protection”, Journal of SAICE, Vol 59, No 3, September 2017.

Contact Bo Barta, Energy and Water Resources Engineering, Tel 073 177-6045,

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