Three Gorges Probe

More dams planned for Yangtze despite problems

June 19, 2000

Official zeal for more hydro development on Yangtze tributaries remains undampened by the financial and technical problems plaguing China’s massive Three Gorges dam. According to Chinese news sources, the State Planning Commission has approved plans for a third hydro dam on Qingjiang River, a major Yangtze tributary that joins the mainstream 100 kilometres downstream of Three Gorges.

The $1.5-billion Shuibuya dam is expected to start generating electricity in 2006 and is scheduled to be completed in 2009 – the same year as Three Gorges, currently in its seventh year of construction.

The 233-metre high dam will have an installed generating capacity* of 1,600 MW and is expected to regulate Qingjiang floodwaters during the summer flood season, improve navigation and provide peak power to China’s central power-grid.

Wang Dingguo, chairman of the board for the Qingjiang River Hydropower Development Company, the project’s developer, told People’s Daily the Shuibuya dam, situated near Shien City in Hubei province, will help reduce economic losses from flooding by $1.8-billion (15-billion yuan).

But whether Shuibuya, Three Gorges and neighbouring dams will be able to fulfill expectations has Chinese officials and experts worried.

According to a story in China Business Times, Yuan Guolin, the retired deputy general manager of the Three Gorges Project Corporation, doubts Three Gorges will be able to sell its output. The provinces and cities originally slated to buy Three Gorges’ output have enough power already and are pushing to build their own power plants to meet future demand, which would generate more tax revenue locally, said Yuan.

Even if a market did exist, Yuan is worried that Three Gorges project engineers won’t be able to get the generators and turbines – bought from 19 different manufacturers in seven countries – to function together properly.

A group of 53 Chinese experts have warned the Three Gorges dam may also disrupt Yangtze shipping by blocking the river and choking Chongqing port with silt, and would require the world’s largest shiplift, never before tested, to lift ships 113 metres, more than twice the height of any existing shiplift.

The two other existing dams on the Qingjiang River include the Geheyan hydro dam, 93 kilometres downstream from the Shuibuya dam site, which began operating in 1998 with an installed generating capacity* of 1,200 MW. Further downstream, the Gaobazhou hydro dam, under construction since 1993, will have an installed generating capacity* of 252 MW.

With an installed generating capacity* of more than 17,000 MW, the Three Gorges dam is scheduled to start generating electricity in 2003.

* A large dam’s actual output may be only a fraction of the installed generating capacity. Due to various limitations – seasonal and annual variations in water flow, and the operating conflict inherent in keeping reservoirs low for flood storage and high for maximum power production – large multi-purpose dams can only generate electricity at full capacity for a few months of the year.

Three Gorges Probe welcomes submissions. However, it is not a forum for political debate. Rather, Three Gorges Probe is dedicated to covering the scientific, technical, economic, social, and environmental ramifications of completing the Three Gorges Project, as well as the alternatives to the dam.

Publisher: Patricia Adams Assistant Editor: Lisa Peryman Executive Editor: Mu Lan ISSN 1481-0913

Categories: Three Gorges Probe

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