Baihetan Dam China

The measure of: Baihetan Dam

Image credit: Cover Images

The Baihetan Hydropower Station on the upstream branch of China’s Yangtze river began generating electricity for the first time from 28 June 2021.

According to China’s state broadcaster CCTV, the project’s first two 1GW turbines started up after a three-day trial. The project will eventually comprise 16 such units, making its total generating capacity second only to the Three Gorges Dam once it is fully completed in July next year.

Baihetan was built by the China Three Gorges Corporation and is on the border between the southwestern provinces of Yunnan and Sichuan. It is part of a cascade of dams on the Jinsha river, which is the upstream section of the Yangtze.

Baihetan Dam China inline

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The project is part of a national scheme to generate electricity and deliver it to high-energy-consuming regions on the eastern coast, and is also designed to strengthen control over water flows during the heavy summer flood season.

“As a major project in China’s west-east power transmission programme, Baihetan is the largest and most technically difficult hydropower project currently under construction in the world,” said China’s President Xi Jinping, adding that the project has marked a breakthrough in China’s high-end equipment manufacturing.

An ultra-high voltage (UHV) electricity transmission line connecting Baihetan to the eastern province of Jiangsu started construction in late 2020 and is expected to be brought into operation in 2022. Another UHV line from Baihetan to Zhejiang province, also in eastern China, is waiting for Beijing’s approval.

Vital statistics

Height of dam: 289m

Width at crest: 13m

Width at base: 72m

16 turbines, each with a generating capacity of 1.0GW

Height of each generator: 50m

Mass of each generator: 8,000t

Expected clean energy generated annually when fully operational: 62TWh

Cost of dam: £25bn

Flood control capacity: 7.5 billion m3

Length of construction: 4 years

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