China's Second Largest Hydropower Dam Starts Generating Electricity

The Baihetan dam features the world's largest capacity hydropower turbines, at 1 gigawatt each.
Chris Young

China's enormous Baihetan hydropower plant on the Yangtze river — the country's second-largest dam — started generating electricity for the first time on Monday, June 28, Reuters report explains.

The plant, which is set to be second in capacity only to the Three Gorges Dam, will consist of 16 1-gigawatt (GW) turbines, giving it the largest single-unit capacity in the world.

The first two of these turbines will start operating after a three-day trial, Chinese state media said, as per Reuters.

Baihetan is located on the border between the Yunnan and Sichuan provinces in China, on the Jinsha River, the Chinese name for the upper stretches of the Yangtze.

The Baihetan hydropower plant has a height of 289 meters (948 feet), and it took approximately four years to build. Once fully operational, the dam's total capacity will be 16 million kilowatts. The massive structure was built by the China Three Gorges Corporation, whose namesake is so large in scale that it has demonstrably slowed down the Earth's rotation.

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Aside from generating electricity for China's eastern coast, the Baihetan project is also designed to control the flow of water during the region's summer flood season.

The dam will connect to ultra-high voltage (UHV) electricity transmission lines, with one connected to the eastern province of Jiangsu expected to launch in 2022, and another to Zhejiang province in the planning stage.

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The new lines should help with recent problems of electricity shortages during peak demand periods in eastern and central China.

The dam was also built in order to help meet China's climate change goals, with the country aiming for carbon neutrality by 2060 — the country is the world's largest source of carbon dioxide, as it accounts for approximately 28 percent of global emissions.

The dam starts operation in the leadup to the Communist Party of China's 100th anniversary on July 1, with the government having said on state media that the project constitutes a new achievement in engineering for the country.

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