Electrical Power & Protection


ACTOM’s one-stop power solutions

August 2023 Electrical Power & Protection

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 loadshedding that can last several hours a day.

According to the latest news, loadshedding has cost South Africa R1,2 trillion 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 loadshedding, which leaves business owners and citizens discouraged. “The country is in a dire situation due to the lack of generation availability,” says Mervyn Naidoo, CEO of ACTOM.

One of the most tangible effects of loadshedding to everyday business owners is the extra amount they pay each month to maintain standard operational levels – whether installing solar or UPS, 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 electromechanical industry. ACTOM offers large-scale infrastructure installations to smaller projects and support services. With 12 specialist and fully integrated divisions, the company is committed to meeting its client’s energy needs without compromising future sustainability.

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 independent 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 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 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. The company custom designs and manufactures medium-voltage motors for the mining, industrial, processing and utilities markets in South Africa and globally. “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,” says Naidoo.

John Thompson, a division of ACTOM, has a long history of success stories with its unique boiler design and manufacture, and is a global leader in energy and environmental solutions through value engineering and innovation. The company focuses on serving its global customers with tailor-made boilers, environmental solutions (including air pollution control), engineering, energy management, manufacturing, spares, maintenance and training, and specialises in generating power for sugar mills. Its engineering teams can accurately simulate virtually any scenario using the latest computational fluid dynamics technology.

When maintenance is needed, ACTOM’s electromechanical maintenance, service and repairs specialist, Marthinusen & Coutts, includes the maintenance and servicing of machinery and equipment for the mining, rail transportation, utilities, marine and oil and gas industries. This company is 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 its customers through visibility in the process. The company digitises factories and equipment and design programs, which include applications in protection, control and static power. Smart intelligence is incorporated 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 chargers (microprocess-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 its 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 25 MW power plant is adjacent to Mpumalanga’s Sappi Ngodwana pulp mill. According to general manager, Russel Warren, 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 transformers for wind farms, including 157 x 2700 kVA pad-mounted, oil-natural, and air-natural transformers. Consolidated Power Projects, the electrical BOP contractor for the wind farms, Noupoort, Khobab and Loeriesfontein, ordered its transformers from ACTOM, which 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 can supply electrical equipment, services and balance of plant to any renewable energy project. 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,” adds Naidoo.

With renewable power generation and solutions on everyone’s lips, it is 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 the plant through its full lifecycle, and ultimately help the customer achieve an optimised plant performance,” Naidoo concludes.

For more information contact Mamiki Matlawa, ACTOM, +27 10 136 0200, [email protected], www.actom.co.za


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