China builds new 2.8 GW pumped hydroelectric storage facility

China has begun construction on its Qinghai Warang pumped hydro electricity storage power station in northwestern China to store excess renewable power.
Christopher McFadden
The new plant will act like a giant battery.


China has begun construction on a significant renewable energy facility in northwestern China, The South China Morning Post (SCMP) reports. Cited in the Gobi Desert and Tibetan Plateau, the facility will feature Qinghai's first pumped storage hydropower station. It will also form part of a series of regional projects built to improve the power grid's reliability.

First of its kind

Pumped storage hydropower (PSH) is a hydroelectric energy storage system that uses two water reservoirs at different elevations to generate power as water flows down from one to the other through a turbine. The system acts like a large battery, storing power and releasing it when needed.

Reported to have a maximum installed capacity of 2.8 gigawatts (GW) once it is up and running, construction of the facility commenced on Sunday, 6th of August. It will be located in Guinan County, east of Qinghai, and use the Laxiwa reservoir on the Yellow River as its lower reservoir.

The Qinghai Warang power station will form part of a larger project to improve the power grid's reliability in the province. It will be operated by the State Grid Corporation, a state-owned electric company, SCMP reports. Qinghai has any Chinese province's highest renewable energy capacity, with 28 percent hydropower and 63 percent solar and wind power. By 2030, it will reach 100GW, over three times the current capacity.

Impressive, but a significant challenge with wind and solar power is that peak energy production often does not align with peak energy consumption, making storage necessary for more flexible use of the power produced. According to the International Hydropower Association, this is where solutions like PSH are ideal for grids that rely on solar and wind power, as they can absorb and release energy based on demand. Liu Yongqi, director of the State Grid’s pumped storage and new energy division, explained the station would fill a gap in Qinghai’s pumped storage capacity and play a significant role in providing stable energy operation to the power grid.

More to come

The Warang station will have a storage capacity of 20 million kilowatt-hours and will be connected to the Qinghai power grid via a 750-kilovolt transmission line. Once the Warang plant is operational, it will reduce 4.55 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions annually, SCMP reports, and improve energy transmission from surrounding wind and solar plants.

The National Energy Administration (NEA) aims to install 62GW of pumped storage capacity by 2025 and 120GW by 2030 to help China achieve carbon neutrality. The country also plans to construct 200 pumped hydro facilities with a combined total of 270GW by 2025, according to state-owned broadcaster CGTN.

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