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World’s 2nd-largest hydropower station put into use in China

KUNMING/CHENGDU – Baihetan hydropower station, the world's second largest in terms of total installed capacity, was officially put into use in southwest China, with two generating units in operation on Monday. 

Located downstream from the Jinsha River on the border of Yunnan and Sichuan provinces, Baihetan Hydropower Station also has the world's largest installed capacity of a single generating unit and the world's second-largest in terms of overall installed capacity

President Xi Jinping on Monday sent a congratulatory letter on the operation of the first batch of generating units at the hydropower station.

As a major project in China's west-east power transmission program, the station is the largest and most technically difficult hydropower project under construction in the world, said Xi, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission.

Each of the generating units has a capacity of 1 million kilowatts, the largest single-unit capacity in the world, marking a major breakthrough in China's high-end equipment manufacturing, he said.

The station's builders and relevant parties have worked together to overcome difficulties and make contributions to the construction of the major national project, said Xi.

Xi expressed the hope that all builders and relevant parties advance the station's follow-up work, make greater contributions to achieving the country's carbon-peak and carbon-neutralization goals, and promote the comprehensive green transformation of economic and social development.

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Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said in an instruction that solid efforts should be made to carry out the construction of quality follow-up projects in a safe manner.

Li, also a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, called for efforts to provide follow-up assistance for relocated people and strengthen the protection and restoration of the ecosystem in the reservoir area.

Vice Premier Han Zheng, also a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, on Monday announced the operation of the first batch of generating units of the Baihetan hydropower station during a ceremony via video link in Beijing.

The Baihetan hydropower station is located on the Jinsha River, the upper section of the Yangtze, and straddles the southwestern provinces of Yunnan and Sichuan.

With a total investment of 220 billion yuan (about US$34.07 billion), the station will have an installed capacity of 16 million kilowatts. It will be equipped with 16 hydro-generating units self-developed by China, each with a capacity of 1 million kilowatts.

All the generating units are scheduled to be operational in July 2022. Once all units are constructed and put into operation, the station will become the second-largest hydropower station globally in terms of installed capacity, second only to the Three Gorges Dam project.

"The generator rotor — a core component of the units — weighs 1,955 tonnes, and can spin at 111 revolutions per minute and still remain stable, which ensures the long-term safe operation of the units," said Chen Hao, an engineer with the China Three Gorges Corporation.

The dam of Baihetan is an ultra-high double-curvature arch dam with a maximum height of 289 meters and an arc length of 709 meters. The concrete pouring for the dam started in April 2017 and ended in late May this year, with a total casting volume of 8.03 million cubic meters for its main body.

Aerial photo taken on May 13, 2021 shows the view of the Baihetan hydropower station under construction in Southwest China. (PHOTO/XINHUA)

Since the pouring began, thermal cracking has not been found on the dam, proving that China has completely mastered the key technology of temperature control and crack prevention in mass concrete, according to CTGC, which built the dam.

"All the core technologies of the Baihetan hydropower station are independently developed. The operation of the first generating units marks a breakthrough in China's construction of large-scale hydropower projects," said Lei Mingshan, chairman of CTGC.

A key project in China's west-east power transmission program, the hydropower station will generate an average of more than 62.4 billion kWh of electricity every year. Its green power will be transmitted to east China, contributing to the high-quality development of the local economy.

When in full operation, the Baihetan project is expected to save approximately 19.68 million tonnes of standard coal, and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 51.6 million tonnes, sulfur dioxide by 170,000 tonnes, and nitrogen oxides by 150,000 tonnes annually.

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"The hydropower station has a flood control capacity of 7.5 billion cubic meters. It will function as a flood barrier for the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River," said Wang Wei from CTGC.

During the dry season, it will also increase the flow in the lower reaches and improve the navigable conditions of the channel, according to CTGC.

Zheng Xin contributed to this report