China operationalises Baihetan hydro project, biggest since Three Gorges

With a total installed capacity of 16 million kilowatts, it’s equipped with 16 hydro-generating units, each with a capacity of 1 million kilowatts, the largest single-unit capacity in the world.
The Baihetan hydropower plant is seen in operation on the border between Qiaojia county of Yunnan province and Ningnan county of Sichuan province, China, on Monday. (REUTERS)
The Baihetan hydropower plant is seen in operation on the border between Qiaojia county of Yunnan province and Ningnan county of Sichuan province, China, on Monday. (REUTERS)
Updated on Jun 28, 2021 02:46 PM IST
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By Sutirtho Patranobis I Edited by Amit Chanda

Two units of the giant Baihetan hydropower plant, said to be the largest one under construction globally, on the Yangtze river in southwest China generated electricity for the first time on Monday, state media reported.

The project’s first two 1-gigawatt (GW) turbines will go into formal operation after a three-day trial that began on Monday, national broadcaster, China Central Television (CCTV) said.

Built by the China Three Gorges Corporation - operator of the world’s largest hydropower plant in the world, the Three Gorges Dam - the Baihetan is located on the border between the southwestern provinces of Yunnan and Sichuan.

It is on the Jinsha, the upstream section of the Yangtze river, the longest in Asia.

The dam has been operationalised in the run-up to the 100th anniversary of the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) on July 1, state media reported, adding that it was a symbol of how efficient CPC is in planning and completing large-scale projects.

“With a total installed capacity of 16 million kilowatts, the hydropower station is equipped with 16 hydro-generating units, each with a capacity of 1 million kilowatts, the largest single-unit capacity in the world,” the Xinhua news agency reported on Monday. That will make it second in size after the Three Gorges Dam, opened in 2003 on the Yangtze, with 22.5 million kilowatts of generating capacity, the Associated Press reported.

The trial operation is limited to generators 1 and 14 while the remaining 14 generators of the hydropower station are expected to be put into use by July 2022.

One of China’s biggest and most challenging engineering projects - as it had to tackle a set of complex geological and technical issues with a dam height of 289m - it has taken only four years to build, state media reported.

Earlier this month, all 12 units of the Wudongde hydropower station, the world’s seventh-largest, on Jinsha river near the Yunnan and Sichuan border were also operationalised.

With a total installed capacity of 10.2 million kilowatts, the Wudongde hydropower station is a key project in China’s west-east power transmission programme.

The station’s construction began in late 2015, and it started to generate electricity in late June last year.

By the middle of June, the station had produced 24.5 billion kWh of electricity, equal to that generated by around 7.68 million tonnes of standard coal, Wang Jintao, head of the Wudongde electricity plant under China Three Gorges Corporation, told Xinhua news agency.

In its latest five-year plan covering the period of 2021-25, Sichuan province aims to complete the construction of 10 hydropower plants and start building another seven.

Environmental groups have criticised the large-scale damming of the Yangtze and its tributaries because of concerns the over-engineering of the river has destroyed major habitats and damaged natural flood plains, Reuters news agency said in a report.

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Thursday, October 21, 2021