Eskom’s Diesel Dilemma: Could Solar Farms Be the Solution?

Eskom, South Africa’s state-owned electricity utility, has been grappling with load-shedding and rising costs.

Eskom’s Diesel Dilemma: Could Solar Farms Be the Solution?

Interestingly, it turns out that the money Eskom spends on diesel could be put to more sustainable use. In this blog post, we explore the potential of solar farms as a solution to Eskom’s energy challenges.

Eskom’s Diesel Budget

  • Annually, Eskom allocates a staggering R29 billionto cover its diesel expenses.
  • By the beginning of January, it had already spent R25 billion on diesel fuel.
  • This substantial sum is primarily used to run Eskom’s peaking power stations, which operate almost continuously to mitigate the impact of load-shedding.

Solar Farm Potential

  • If Eskom were to redirect this budget towards renewable energy projects, it could achieve remarkable results.
  • Specifically, with the same amount of money, Eskom could build six large solar power farms in South Africa every single year.
  • To put this into perspective, let’s consider the Solar Capital De Aar Project in the Northern Cape. It currently holds the title of being the largest solar farm in South Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa.
  • The project spans 473 hectares of a 2,674-hectare farm and boasts more than half a million solar modules that efficiently convert sunlight into electricity.
  • With a peak generating capacity of 175 MW, it can power approximately 75,000 houses annually.
  • The Solar Capital De Aar Project was completed in two stages, with the first phase providing 85.26 MW and the second phase adding an additional 90 MW.
  • The entire project was completed in just 28 months at a total cost of R4.8 billion.

Potential Impact

Redirecting Eskom’s diesel budget could add 1,050 MW of clean energy generation capacity to the grid each year.

  • However, it’s essential to acknowledge that solar power is intermittent, relying heavily on weather conditions.
  • To address this, extensive battery systems can accompany large solar projects, ensuring a more consistent output.
  • Even with batteries, if Eskom were to invest in a solar facility with both a farm and batteries, it could create the largest solar battery facility in the country, surpassing the output of traditional power stations.

Existing Solar Battery Storage System

  • South Africa already hosts a significant solar battery storage system.
  • The Scatec ASA facility combines 540 MW of solar power with a battery system boasting 225 MW output.
  • The battery has a capacity of 1,140 MWh and consistently delivers 150 MW of dispatchable power between 5 am and 9:30 pm.
  • Notably, this output exceeds what the Komati Power Station’s last unit produced before its decommissioning in October 2022.


In summary, Eskom has the potential to harness abundant sunlight and significantly reduce its reliance on diesel by investing in large-scale solar farms and accompanying battery storage systems. The shift toward renewable energy could pave the way for a more sustainable and resilient power supply for South Africa. Let’s hope that Eskom considers this greener path for the benefit of the nation and the planet!

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