Baihetan hydropower project is a 16GW hydroelectric facility under construction on the Jinsha River, which is a tributary of the Yangtze River in south-west China. It will be the world’s second biggest power station after the Three Gorges Dam, upon completion.

The massive project extends over the Ningnan county in the Sichuan province and the Qiaojia county in the Yunnan province.

The Baihetan project is being developed by Jinsha River Chuanyun Hydropower Development Company, which is a joint venture between China Three Gorges (CTG) Corporation (70%), Sichuan Energy Investment Group (15%), and Yunnan Energy Investment Group (15%).

Scheduled for commissioning in 2022, Baihetan will be one of the first projects to use a 1,000MW hydro-turbine generator.

The Baihetan hydroelectric facility is expected to generate 60 billion kilowatt hours (KWh) of electricity, while offsetting 52 million tonnes (Mt) of CO2 emissions a year.

Baihetan hydropower project background

Baihetan is one of the four Chinese hydropower projects either in operation or under development with an installed capacity of more than 10GW. The four projects, all located on the Jinsha River, will have a combined installed capacity of approximately 46GW and an annual generation capacity of 190TWh.

The other three mega hydroelectric projects apart from Baihetan are the 22.5GW Three Gorges Dam (operational) on the Yangtze River, the 13.86GW Xiluodu hydropower station (operational), and the 10.2GW Wudong­de hydropower station (under construction) on the Jinsha River.

The Baihetan and Wudong­de projects are envisioned under the Go-West Program of China, which is aimed at transferring electricity from west to east China.

The Baihetan project is located downstream of the Wudon­gde hydropower project. The Xiluodu and the 6.4GW Xiangjiaba hydroelectric projects located downstream of the Baihetan project have been operational since 2013 and 2012, respectively.

Baihetan hydropower project development details

The feasibility study for the project was approved by the National Development and Reform Commission of China in 2010. Construction works on the project were started in August 2017 and the first turbine unit was installed in January 2019.

The power station is expected to start generating electricity by 2021 and reach full operational capacity by 2022.

Baihetan hydroelectric facility make-up

The Baihetan project includes the construction of a concrete double-curvature arch dam with a maximum dam height of 289m. The dam crest elevation is 834m and centre line arc length is 709m.

The project will have two underground powerhouses, one each on the left and right banks of the dam. Each powerhouse will be equipped with eight 1,000MW Francis turbines to be indigenously manufactured in China.

Baihetan dam and reservoir details

The impoundment level of the dam is 825m, while the reservoir capacity will be 20.627bn m³. The dam is designed to have a regulation storage capacity of 10.43 billion cubic meters (bcm) and flood control storage capacity of 7.5bcm.

The Baihetan dam will have six flood gate structures and three spillway tunnels. The flood discharge capacity of the project will be 42,346m³/s.

Contractors involved

China Three Gorges (CTG) is responsible for the construction of the Baihetan hydropower project.

CTG collaborated with local power equipment researchers and manufacturing company Dongfang Electric Machinery to develop the first 1,000MW turbine generator for the project. HBIS Wusteel, another Chinese company, supplied material for the turbine stay rings, generator lid, and control rings.

Dongfang Electric Machinery is responsible for supplying eight turbine generator units for the left bank power house, while Harbin Electric Machinery Factory will provide the remaining eight units for the right bank power house.

Caterpillar is the supplier of machinery for the earth works at the Baihetan hydropower project.