World's largest hydro-solar power plant enters full operation in China

The high-altitude Kela photovoltaic (PV) power station in Sichuan can save over 600,000 tons of standard coal annually by combining both solar and hydropower to produce electricity.
Shubhangi Dua
World's Largest And Highest-altitude Hydro-solar Power Station Put Into Operation
World's Largest And Highest-altitude Hydro-solar Power Station Put Into Operation

Liu Zhongjun / China News Service / VCG via Getty Images 

With countries around the world setting environmental goals to reduce carbon emissions and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, China, with its huge economy and ability to get large-scale infrastructure projects off the ground quickly, has just completed an ambitious project that combines solar with hydro-electric power production at a high altitude.

The Kela photovoltaic (PV) power station idea was formed by the Design and Research Institute of PowerChina Chengdu in 2016 with construction getting underway in July 2022.

The Global Times reports that PowerChina Chengdu is responsible for the surveying, design, procurement, construction, commissioning, grid connection, and power generation for one-third of the project.

After overcoming the challenges of building at high altitudes with low oxygen levels, the newly-designed hydro-solar power plant entered full operations on Sunday, and is said to be the largest of its kind anywhere in the world.

The PV power station is located in the Yalong River Basin of the Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Garze in southwest China's Sichuan province.

Watch the CGTN report below:

Building power station

State-run foreign-language news channel CGTN says that the power station project is part of China’s first phase of the Yalong River's Lianghekou Hydropower Station, which started operations in March. 

Unlike others, the Kela PV power station is equipped with an installed capacity scale of one million kilowatts for a hydro-solar power grid. 

Liu Xun, journalist at CGTN reports, “With a total installed capacity of three million kilowatts, electricity generated by Kela will be connected to the Lianghekou and then integrated into the power grid.”

Additionally, the power station can fully charge 15,000 electric vehicles with a range of 550 kilometers in just one hour. It also has an annual generation capacity of two billion kilowatt-hours (kWh), thus, can cover the needs of approximately 700,000 households per year.

Environmental impact

Yang Zhiwei, project manager at PowerChina Chengdu told China Media Group (CMG), “This is equivalent to 600,000 tonnes of standard coal and will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by more than 1.6 million tonnes.”

The production of power would fluctuates depending on weather conditions when solar panels were used exclusively. However, the hydropower element helps regulate the instability in power generation. 

The combination of solar power and hydropower contributes to a balance in supply. As a result, it provides stability in generating high-quality and clean energy all year round despite variations in weather conditions.

The project’s chief design engineer Wu Di told the Global Times that combining solar and hydropower was considered an effective way of making the project more stable as instability, fluctuation, and intermittency of PV power generation had an impact on the power grid.

In terms of civil engineering, a total of 527,000 photovoltaic foundation piles are installed in the power station and nearly 50,000 tonnes of steel were used for the PV powerhouse.