China’s 16 GW Baihetan hydropower plant becomes fully operational

China’s 16 GW Baihetan hydropower plant has become fully operational on 20 December 2022, as its final unit was put into operation. The power plant, which becomes China’s second largest hydro plant (after the 22.5 GW Three Gorges Dam), is located between the provinces of Sichuan and Yunnan on the Jinsha River (south-western China).

The plant, developed and built by China Three Gorges Corporation, is equipped with 16 turbine units of 1 GW each and is expected to produce more than 62 TWh/year of electricity. It is expected to allow a reduction in emissions of nearly 52 MtCO2/year by avoiding the use of nearly 20 Mt/year of coal. Construction on the Baihetan hydro project began in 2017, and the first two turbines went into operation in June 2021.

The China Three Gorges Corporation runs all six major hydropower plants on the Yangtze River, which together are expected to generate 300 TWh/year of power. Four of them (Wudongde, Baihetan, Xiluodu, and Xiangjiaba) are located on the Jinsha River, the upper section of the Yangtze River, while the other two (Three Gorges Dam and Gezhouba) are on the middle section of the Yangtze.

At the end of 2021, hydro represented 16% of China’s installed capacity with 391 GW and 16% of its power generation with 1,339 TWh. The country holds the world’s largest estimated exploitable hydroelectricity resources at around 1,750 TWh.