Three Gorges Dam at full capacity as last generator starts operation

The Three Gorges Dam, the world's largest hydropower project, started working at full capacity Wednesday as the last of its 32 large turbine generators was put into operation.

The last generator, or the dam's No. 27 generator, is one of six generators that make up the dam's underground power plant. The other 26 units are situated inside the mountain on the left and right sides of the riverbank.

"With a combined generating capacity of 22.5 million kilowatts, the full operation of the generators makes the Three Gorges Dam the world's largest hydropower project and largest base of clean energy," Zhang Cheng, general manager of China Yangtze Power Co. Ltd., the operator of the generators, said at a Wednesday ceremony held in Yichang in central China's Hubei province.

The last generator was designed and manufactured by China Dongfang Electric Machinery Co. Ltd. and was installed by the China Gezhouba Group Mechanical and Electrical Construction Co. Ltd.

Workers began installing the generator in late January of last year. The generator successfully passed a 72-hour power grid trial in May this year.

"Its operation demonstrates that China's technology related to designing, manufacturing, installing and adjusting large evaporative air cooling units has become mature. We have full intellectual property rights for certain cooling technologies," said Zhang Chengping, director of the Mechanics Engineering Bureau under the China Three Gorges Corporation.

Important Role

The Three Gorges Project, launched in 1993 with a budget equivalent to 22.5 billion U.S. dollars, consists of a dam and a five-tier ship dock, in addition to the 32 generators.

The dam's first generator went into operation on July 10, 2003. All of the 26 generators on the two sides of the dam had gone into operation as of October 2008.

The Three Gorges Project generates electricity, controls flooding by providing storage for water and adjusts shipping capacity on the Yangtze River, China's longest waterway.

"The project has not only eased power shortages and boosted the country's economic development, but also played a significant role in developing clean energy and cutting greenhouse gas emissions," said Li Pingshi, director of the Three Gorges Power Plant.

As of Wednesday, it has generated 564.8 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity, Li said.

The dam withstood three major floods last summer, taking the edge off the fierce flows by holding back the majority of the floodwaters in its reservoir to ease the flood's impact on the river's lower reaches.

The dam reservoir releases water in the dry season to ease droughts, particularly in downstream rice-growing areas.

[Source: Xinhua, Yichang, 04Jul12]

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