The largest hydroelectric project on the Upper Mekong River Basin officially began generating power yesterday. The Nuozhadu dam (糯扎渡水电站) near Pu'er will be China's fourth largest hydropower plant when finished in 2014, energy website RedNet is reporting.
The embankment dam rises 261.5 meters above the Mekong River, or Lancang River (澜沧江) in Chinese. Construction on the dam is not complete and only one of a planned nine 650 megawatt generators is currently in operation.
When fully operational the power plant will produce an estimated 24,000 gigawatts of electricity annually. In practical terms, that is enough energy to power New York City for seven months. Project engineers at the power plant's September 6 opening ceremony said energy generated by Nuozhadu will save more than nine million tons of coal per year.
The 61 billion yuan (US$9.6 billion) project broke ground in 2004 and is part of China's sprawling Western Development Strategy (西部大开发战略). One of the key goals of this policy is to utilize the region's numerous rivers for power production. Much of the electricity will be sent to larger, more energy-hungry cities on the east coast. Some of the power generated by the dam will be sold to Laos, Myanmar, and Vietnam.
The project broke ground in 2004 and the reservoir behind the dam began filling last year. When completely full, the new Nuozhadu reservoir will have a surface area of 320 square kilometers and hold water equivalent to 11 Dianchi lakes.
Nearly 43,000 people must be relocated to make way for the slowly filling lake. Those efforts began in 2011 and will continue through this year.
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