The water level at the Three Gorges dam, aka the largest hydropower plant in the world, reached its maximum yesterday, spurring electricity output to full capacity for the first time since it began operations in 2008. Dam officials have been holding back water since September in order to let it rise to its peak height of 175m Tuesday morning.
They’re going to maintain the water at this peak height for about two months for surveillance and after that, the water level will be kept between 145m and 175m depending on the needs for flood control.
It’s a “historical milestone” says the operator group chairman, Cao Huangjing and true enough, it is the culmination of an expensive 22.5 billion dollar project built along the Yangtze river to help with flooding. The annual power generation will reach 84.7 billion kilowatt hours which would “enable the project to fulfill its functions of flood control, power generation, navigation and water diversion to the full.”
To put it into perspective, the electricity generated is enough to meet Beijing’s needs for a year. In comparison, the United States’ Hoover Dam produces only a fraction of that–approximately 4 billion kilowatt-hours each year. The dam running at full capacity is supposedly meant to “symboliz[e] the total success of the massive water project” but it’s still not enough to silence its critics. Many
concerns have been raised about the massive project which displaced 1.4 million people and exacerbated geological hazards like landslides. They accuse the government of trying to show off its engineering mightand that smaller dams could have fulfilled China’s needs without creating the ecological harm the Three Gorges dam has.