16-GW Baihetan hydropower plant begins operating in China

Baihetan hydro

The 16-GW Baihetan hydropower plant on the upstream branch of China’s Yangtze River has begun generating electricity for the first time, according to China’s state broadcaster CCTV.

CCTV reported that the project’s first two 1-GW turbines will start up after a three-day trial. The project will eventually consist of 16 such units, making its total generation capacity second only to the 22.4-GW Three Gorges Dam once it is fully completed in July 2022.

The Baihetan hydropower station is located at the boundary river section between Yunnan and Sichuan, the second among the four cascade hydropower stations in the downstream section of the Jinsha River.

The project forms part of a national drive to generate electricity and deliver it to high energy-consuming regions on the east coast. To this end, an ultra-high-voltage electricity transmission line, expected to launch in 2022, will connect Baihetan to the eastern province of Jiangsu. Another UHV line from Baihetan to Zhejiang province, also in eastern China, is waiting for Beijing’s approval.

According to 2016 estimates from China’s National Development and Reform Commission, the project will cost about US$6.3 billion.

Baihetan, built by the China Three Gorges Corporation, is said to be one of China’s largest and most challenging engineering projects. According to CTGC, the project’s main structures consist of the dam, flood discharge structures, water diversion and power generation facilities. The dam is a double-curvature arch dam with a maximum height of 277 m, a crest elevation of 827 m, a crest width of 13 m and a maximum bottom width of 72 m.

The underground powerhouse will have an average annual power output of 60.24 TWh, which is equal to two-thirds of Beijing’s electricity consumption in 2015, CTGC said in 2017.

The project is located in a transitional region that stretches from the Tibetan Plateau and Yunnan-Guizhou Plateau to the Sichuan Basin, an area with complex geological conditions that have caused hundreds of landslides.

This article is adapted from one originally published on Power Engineering International and is reprinted with permission.

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Elizabeth Ingram is content director for the Hydro Review website and HYDROVISION International. She has more than 17 years of experience with the hydroelectric power industry. Follow her on Twitter @ElizabethIngra4 .

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