The first turbine runner of the 1.2GW Suwalong hydropower station was hoisted in February 2021. Image courtesy of Hui Yulin/ POWERCHINA.
The Suwalong hydropower station is located in the Tibet Autonomous Region, China. Image courtesy of Yang Zhiwei/ POWERCHINA.
Dongfang Electric Corporation is the turbine supplier for the project. Image courtesy of Chen Jun/ POWERCHINA.

The Suwalong power project is a 1.2GW run-of-the-river hydroelectric power station under construction in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), China.

Huadian Jinsha River Upstream Hydropower Development Company, a subsidiary of state-owned China Huadian Corporation (CHD), is developing the project with an estimated investment of £2.02bn ($2.78bn).

Suwalong is the first of 13 hydropower stations being built on the upper reaches of the Jinsha River, which is a major tributary of the Yangtze, the longest river in China as well as Asia.

The Suwalong hydropower project was approved by China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) in November 2015. While the project was launched in April 2016, the main construction works were started following the river closure in November 2017.

The project started impounding water in January 2021, with the first of the total four units of the power station scheduled for commissioning by October 2021.

At full capacity, the Suwalong hydroelectric power station is expected to support the West-East Power Transmission Programme of China by generating up to 5,426-gigawatt hours (GWh) of electricity a year.

The West-East Power Transmission Programme was officially launched in 2001, as part of China’s Tenth Five-Year Plan, to deliver surplus electricity from the country’s western regions to the densely-populated eastern regions.

Location and site details

The Suwalong hydropower project is located in the Hengduan Mountains near the Suwalong Township, at the intersection of the Mangkam County of Tibet and the Batang County of the Sichuan province in south-west China.

Suwalong dam and reservoir details

The Suwalong hydroelectric power project includes a 112m-high, asphalt-concrete core dam designed to create a 638 million cubic metres (mcm) reservoir with a normal storage level of 2,475m.

Suwalong hydropower station make-up

The Suwalong hydropower station will be equipped with four Francis turbines of 300MW each.

The water intake system will comprise four water diversion tunnels connected to steel-lined penstocks on the left bank, while the spillway gates and the flood-discharge tunnel will be located on the right bank.

Construction facilities and equipment

A bridge was constructed over the Jinsha River as part of an approach road to the project site.

A concrete plant was set up to facilitate the construction, while the various construction equipment used at the site included a permanent gantry crane, two 500 tonnes (t) double beam electric bridge cranes, a 60t MZQ1260 cylindrical overhead portal crane for installation activities, an SCM-C7050 tower crane, and a belt conveyor for smooth and efficient concrete pouring operation.

Power evacuation from the Suwalong hydroelectric facility

The electricity generated by the Suwalong hydropower station will be evacuated into the grid through a 500kV transmission line.

Contractors involved

Dongfang Electric Corporation (DEC) was contracted for the manufacturing and supply of four Francis hydro turbine generators for the Suwalong hydroelectric power project.

Sinohydro Bureau 3 Company was contracted for the construction as well as the installation of electrical and mechanical equipment.

The 709th Research Institute of China was contracted for the supply of a gate hoist control system and a real-time online monitoring system for the project in 2019.

China 19th Metallurgical Corporation (MCC19) was engaged for the installation of a 110kV transformer substation, along with sulphur hexafluoride (SF6) gas-insulated switch gears, and electrical and control cabinets.

Beijing Research Institute provided design and engineering services, while Guiyang Research Institute was engaged to provide supervision services for the project.