In the latest effort to tackle the country’s infamous smog and pollution, China’s State Grid Corporation has announced on its website that it will soon receive approval from the central government to construct the world’s largest hi-tech power network.
Coming at an estimated minimum investment of 210 billion RMB, the network entails the building of 12 power lines which will connect the industrialised eastern coast to China’s vast but energy-rich interior.
This will include 8 ultra-high voltage (UHV) lines, which will improve electricity transmission efficiency and extend the distances previously able to be covered by standard power lines.
Despite some concerns about the project – especially the vulnerability of such a broad network to system-wide failures – the emerging technology is being hailed as an ultimately far cleaner, more efficient way to deliver electricity across the country.
State Grid claims UHV power lines can reduce the density of PM2.5 smog particles, which are considered most dangerous to human health, by 4-5 per cent in central and eastern regions and cut coal consumption by 200 million tonnes a year.
UHV power lines will allow power plants to be transferred from densely populated cities such as Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou to more remote inland areas that are further away (because it doesn’t matter if we can’t see it right?).
Areas covered by these lines include Inner Mongolia, Shanxi, Shaanxi and Yunnan which will reach Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei and the Yangtze and Pearl River deltas.
The appeal of the project is that it will allow the dismissal of many coal-fired power plants which are regarded as the main culprits to the smog and heavy pollution in the cities.
State Grid’s president Liu Zhenya has even been cited as saying that UHV technology was the almighty “ultimate cure” for smog.
Some aren’t quite as convinced.
Many are worried that blackouts may lead to a whole system crisis. Professor Chen Shuiming, a researcher in Tsinghua University who was involved in proposing this project stated that he was sure that Chinese engineers had solved “nearly all difficult issues” of the UHV technology.
So we can all just go ahead and be “nearly all” confident once the project does receive the impending approval.
By Mandy Liang