Across the globe, coal power plants are approaching the end of their operational lifespans, raising questions about the transition from coal-dependent communities to greener energy sources. South Africa, home to a significant fleet of over 20 gigawatts (GW) of coal power, is one such place where the challenges and opportunities of this transition are prominent.
The question of how to ensure a just transition for local communities heavily reliant on these coal ecosystems has spurred discussions among stakeholders worldwide. As these coal plants face decommissioning, options for repurposing the infrastructure, leveraging existing grid networks, and supporting communities in this shift have become key topics of debate.
Several proposals have emerged to address these challenges. They encompass a range of solutions, from replacing coal plants with Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) to harnessing utility-scale battery storage, supporting variable renewables, and deploying solar photovoltaic (PV) arrays on the expansive land once dominated by coal power.
In a significant stride toward greener energy solutions, HDF Energy (Hydrogène de France), a pioneer in large-scale green hydrogen infrastructure and high-power fuel cell manufacturing, is introducing a green hydrogen ecosystem to this mix of solutions. South Africa’s Mpumalanga province, historically a major center of electricity generation fueled by coal resources, is now the focal point of HDF’s ambitious green hydrogen venture.
HDF has secured 1,782 hectares of land through South Africa’s national power utility, Eskom’s Land Lease Tender. This vast expanse of land will serve as the canvas for the development of Green Hydrogen baseload power plants in Mpumalanga, offering the potential to become the world’s largest green hydrogen plants. The project envisions deployment across various sites surrounding the Tutuka and Majuba coal power stations.
HDF’s Renewstable power plants are designed to provide clean baseload power and essential grid stabilizing services, especially in areas where geothermal or hydropower resources are unavailable. These plants harness solar or wind energy, produce and store green hydrogen through water electrolysis, and convert it into electricity 24/7 using HDF’s multi-megawatt fuel cells.
For the proposed Mpumalanga project, the plan includes 1,500 megawatts (MW) of solar PV combined with 3,500 megawatt-hours (MWh) of hydrogen storage. The project will inject 1.9 TWh of stable electricity 24/7 into the grid, based on demand, and able to peak at ~500 MW. HDF envisions that this 500 MW of green energy can mitigate up to half of the load-shedding stages, marking a pivotal transition toward cleaner and more reliable electricity for South Africa.
As HDF Energy’s Dexter King shared via LinkedIn, this ambitious project aims to secure a more sustainable and resilient energy future for South Africa’s coal heartland.
This groundbreaking initiative not only promises to reduce the region’s reliance on coal but also presents opportunities for clean job creation and environmental preservation. South Africa’s energy landscape is on the brink of a significant transformation, marking a remarkable shift from coal to clean, renewable energy sources.