Three Gorges Probe

Three Gorges dam: Fact Sheet

February 2011

The Three Gorges Dam, the country’s largest hydropower project, has generated more than 700 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity since it started operation a decade ago, news portal people.com.cn reported Sunday, citing data from China Three Gorges Corporation.As of 10 am Saturday, the total electricity output of the project amounted to 700.835 billion kilowatt-hours, equivalent to one-seventh of the country’s total power consumption last year, the report said.From 2003 to 2012, the Three Gorges Dam has generated over 629.1 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity. In 2012 alone, it set a record by generating 98.1 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity, equivalent to 14 percent of the country’s total hydroelectric power output last year, according to the report.Generating electricity is one of the Three Georges Dam’s three major functions, with the other two being flood control and navigation.

Three Gorges dam: Fact Sheet

Concrete pouring to form the world’s biggest dam, a giant that spans the Yangtze River near Yichang in central China, was completed on May 20, 2006. In 2008, the dam authority attempted to fill the reservoir but stopped due to fears that it would trigger landslides in the upstream area of the reservoir. In 2009, they attempted to fill the reservoir again but, due to a severe drought downstream of the dam in the middle Yangtze valley, the dam authority was ordered to release water. Finally, on October 26, 2010, the reservoir was filled to its “Normal Pool Level” of 175 metres above sea level.
LocationThe Three Gorges Dam is located at Sandouping, near Yichang, Hubei province, just downstream of Xiling Gorge, the easternmost of the Three Gorges.It is situated in the middle section of the Yangtze (Changjiang), which is the longest river in Asia and third longest in the world, running 6,211 km from the Qinghai-Tibet plateau to the East China Sea near Shanghai.
Companies
Chinese China Three Gorges Corporation (CTGPC).
Foreign For information on financiers and companies supplying equipment and services to the project, see Who’s Behind China’s Three Gorges Dam.
Dam
Type Concrete gravity dam.
Height
  • Concrete structure is 181 metres high (from riverbed to top).
  • The dam stands at 185 metres above sea level.
Length 2,309 metres (2.3 km)
Coordinates 30° 49′ 48″ N., 111° 0′ 36″
Cost
Official cost Recently revised from US$25 billion to US$22.5 billion (180 billion yuan).
Real cost
  • Due to Chinese government secrecy, no one knows for sure.
  • Estimates range as high as US$75 billion.
Resettlement
Official figure
  • Long stated as 1.13 million.
  • Xinhua reported on September 17, 2010, that the task of resettlement was complete, and that a total of 1,397,600 people had been moved.
Actual numbers
  • Dai Qing, journalist and longtime critic of the dam, estimates 1.9 million people have been moved.
Timeline
1992
  • The National People’s Congress approves the Three Gorges project on April 3.
  • One-third of the approximately 2,600 delegates to China’s normally “rubber-stamp” parliament vote against it or abstain.
1993
  • First phase of the project (1993-97) begins.
  • Preparatory site work commences early in the year.
1994 Premier Li Peng formally launches construction of the project at the dam site on Dec. 14.
1997 Yangtze dammed on Nov. 8.
1998
  • Second phase of the project (1998-2003) begins.
  • Concrete pouring starts on left bank.
2002 Left bank concrete pouring completed.
2003
  • Reservoir filled to 135 metres above sea level (June 1-10).
  • First generator begins producing power (July 10).
  • Concrete pouring begins on the right bank (July).
2004 Third and final construction phase (2004-09) begins.
2006 Concrete pouring on the right bank of the dam finished May 20.
2008 Revised completion date for the entire project.
2009 Original target for completion of the whole project.
2010 The reservoir was finally filled to 175 metres, or NPL (Normal Pool Level), on October 26, 2010.
Powerhouses
Left (north) bank
  • Construction completed.
  • Fourteen 700 MW turbine generator units now in operation.
  • First one begins generating power: July 10, 2003.
Right (south) bank
  • Construction completed.
  • Twelve 700 MW turbine generator units.
  • All turbine generator units have been in operation since October 2008.
Underground
  • Planned for the right bank.
  • Six 700 MW turbine generator units.
  • The first three of the units will be put into operation in mid-2011. Once all six are in operation, the project’s total installed capacity will rise to 22.4 million kilowatts.
Power output
Update from 2013: The Three Gorges Dam, the country’s largest hydropower project, has generated more than 700 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity since it started operation a decade ago. (Source: people.com.cn citing data from China Three Gorges Corporation). See this Global Times news update published on October 20, 2013.

According to the people.com.cn report, Global Times writes:

As of 10 am Saturday, October 19, 2013, the total electricity output of the project amounted to 700.835 billion kilowatt-hours, equivalent to one-seventh of the country’s total power consumption in 2012.

From 2003 to 2012, the Three Gorges Dam has generated over 629.1 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity. In 2012 alone, it set a record by generating 98.1 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity, equivalent to 14 percent of the country’s total hydroelectric power output last year, according to the report.

Generating electricity is one of the Three Georges Dam’s three major functions, with the other two being flood control and navigation.

2005 49.1 billion kilowatt-hours
2009 84.7 billion kWh
2010 84.37 billion kWh
2011 100 billion kWh
Power distribution      Three Gorges electricity will be distributed to state grid companies in different jurisdictions as follows:
Central China 52 per cent
Eastern China 32 per cent
Guangdong province 16 per cent
Power price
Average selling price 3.0 US cents per kWh
Plus transmission charge 0.8 US cents per kWh
Reservoir level
(impounded water behind the dam)
Original
river level
About 65 metres above sea level.
2003
  • Raised to 135 metres above sea level between June 1 and 10.
  • Raised to 139 metres above sea level in October, which was not part of the original plan (reasons given: power generation, navigation).
2006
  • The raising of the reservoir started in September and reached 156 metres in November.
2008
  • The raising of the reservoir started in September and reached 172.8 metres in October, but was halted due to concerns about geological disasters (landslides) in the reservoir area.
2009
  • The official plan was to raise the reservoir to the final height of 175 metres above sea level (the Normal Pool Level, or NPL) by 2009. The raising of the reservoir started in September and reached 171.43 metres in November, but was halted because of a serious drought in the middle Yangtze valley below the dam.
  • During the annual flood season, the reservoir is to be kept at the “flood-control level” of 145 metres above sea level.
2010
  • The raising of the reservoir began on September 10 and, after two previous attempts, reached 175 metres, or the Normal Pool Level (NPL), on October 26, 2010.
2011
  • The state news agency, Xinhua, now reports that the Three Gorges project will be finally complete in 2015, when both the underground power units and the shiplift are in operation.
Reservoir size
(after it has been raised to 175 metres above sea level)
Length 660 kilometres
Width 1.1 km (average)
Area 1,084 sq km
Land submerged 632 sq km (in 20 counties located in Chongqing municipality and Hubei province)
Water volume 39 billion cubic metres
Navigation
Shiplock
  • Two-way, five-step system of locks, on the left bank.
  • Trial operation begins: June 16, 2003.
  • Formal opening: July 8, 2004.
  • With the reservoir fully impounded to 175 metres above sea level, the five-chamber shiplock is designed to raise and lower boats as much as 113 metres (the maximum difference between the water levels on the upstream and downstream sides of the dam).
Shiplift
  • One-way, one-step elevator, on the left bank.
  • Construction halted in 1995; was formally resumed in 2008, and is now scheduled for completion in 2015.
  • Considered technically extremely complex, the shiplift component of the Three Gorges project has been plagued by delays.
  • A report in May 2006 said the shiplift was at the design stage and that two German companies, Krebs und Kiefer International and Lahmeyer International, had won the design and supervision contracts while the Gezhouba Group is responsible for construction.
Three Gorges Dam and Earthquakes
Earthquake resistance
Earthquake hazards
  • According to the USGS, the dam is situated near six fault lines. The two main ones are:

–         The Jiuwanxi Fault  – 17 km upstream of the dam.

–         The Zigui-Badong fault – 80 km upstream of the dam, was responsible for a M3 earthquake on the Richter Scale shortly after the initial filling of the reservoir began in 2003.

–         More than 3,377 earthquakes have been recorded in key monitoring areas in Badong between July 2003 – December 2007.

Landslides
June 2003
  • According to the USGS, the Three Gorges area is prone to geological disasters, such as landslides and earthquakes. In particular, the raising and lowering of the water level in the Three Gorges reservoir for flood control will saturate older and still-active landslides and subject them to extreme wet-dry cycles, increasing the likelihood of slope failure. Rainfall will intensify the effect. According to official statistics, 2,490 “slip masses” and 90 gullies created by mud-rock flows have been identified along the Yangtze and its tributaries.
  • The USGS and other researchers say that a month after the reservoir began filling, the old Shuping landslide (49 km upstream of the dam and with a volume of 23.6 million cubic metres) began deforming as cracks grew ever wider.  It remains unstable.
July 2003
  • According to the USGS on the morning of July 12, 2003, just one month after the filling of the reservoir, cracks were discovered in the old Qianjiangping landslide, just 26.5 km upstream of the dam site. By evening, cracks had appeared in factory walls and were growing rapidly. At 00:20 minutes on July 13, a huge block of the mountain, 24 million cubic metres in volume, slid into the Qing’ganhe River. The landslide’s crash into the river created 20-meter-high waves that capsized 22 boats. Within minutes, 4 factories, 300 homes, and more than 67 acres of farmland were destroyed. 14 people died and 10 are listed as missing. Despite claims by the Three Gorges Office of Hubei that rain, and not the dam’s reservoir, had reactivated the landslide, several research institutes concluded that the impounding of the reservoir, which raised the water level of the Qing’ganhe River by 30 metres, softened the slip mass, causing instability in the land mass and the eventual landslide. Continuous rain from June 21 to July 11 was also a factor, as rainwater had permeated cracks in the landslide mass.
July-August 2006 Reporting on a field trip to the Three Gorges reservoir, the USGS stated that at least 14 old landslides are considered likely to be reactivated by the filling of the reservoir. The following four landslides were observed along the reservoir:

  • The Xintan landslide – on a bank of the Yangtze River, 16 miles (26 km) upstream of the dam occurred on June 12, 1985, killing 9 people, and blocked a third of the Yangtze and interrupted shipping for two days.
  • The Lianziya Dangerous Cliff – Crag Mass – on the opposite bank from the Xintan landslide is undergoing deformation. Measures are being taken to stabilize it.
  • The Shuping landslide – on a bank of the Yangtze 49 km upstream from the dam. One month after the filling of the reservoir in June 2003, the old landslide began deforming, with cracks on the mass growing ever wider. It remains unstable.
  • The Qianjiangping landslide, on the Quing’ganhe River, a tributary of the Yangtze, occurred in July 2003, as a result of the reservoir filling, followed by rain that permeated cracks in the landslide mass.

___________________________________________

Further readings and updates:

China Yangtze Power H1 electricity output 7pct YoY

Three Gorges Dam (Excerpted from: Freer, R., 2001, “The Three Gorges project on the Yangtze river in China”, Civil Engineering, Proc. Of Institution of Civil Eng., Vol. 144, Issue 1, pp. 20-28, UK.)

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