JINGHONG - The first generating unit of a hydropower station on China's Lancang River became operational on Thursday.
The unit is one of three scheduled to be installed for the first phase development at the Jinghong Hydropower Station. The others will be operational in the latter half of the year, according to Na Xizhi, deputy general manager of China Huaneng Group, the investor.
The Jinghong Hydropower Station, which began construction in July 2003, will have a combined generating capacity of 1.75 million kw upon completion. It has been built with a dam that is 108 m high and 704.5 m long on the Lancang River, known as the Mekong River once it leaves Chinese territory.
The project is a key part of the country's strategy to develop its vast western region and send electricity from there to the more populated eastern area.
Apart from power generation, the project will also bring such benefits as shipping, flood control and tourism development.
With a budget of 12.3 billion yuan (about US$ 1.76 billion), the Jinghong station is the third such facility on the river. It will be capable of generating 7.86 billion kwh of electricity annually when it fully completed next year.
From the Tibetan Plateau, the Lancang runs through Tibet Autonomous Region and Yunnan Province, and flows through Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam before emptying into the South China Sea. The river has a length of 2,100 km inside China, and is said to have 25.45 million kw of hydropower potential.
China plans to build 15 power stations on the river with a total installed capacity of 25.2 million kw. At present, the Manwan and Dachaoshan power stations are operational.
"An expedited development of hydropower conforms with the requirements for building an energy-efficient and environment-friendly society," said Kou Wei, chairman of Yunnan Huaneng Lancang River Hydropower Co. Ltd., developer of the Jinghong station.
If materialized, energy-thirsty China will be saved from consuming 50 million tons of coal annually, plus freed of the hazards done by 120.74 million tons of pollutants that might otherwise be emitted each year, according to Kou.
Zhang Guobao, the National Development and Reform Commission vice minister and chief of its energy bureau, said: "Through pains-taking efforts, Chinese developers have fostered a healthy atmosphere featuring friendly neighbors and a cooperative spirit with Southeast Asian nations along the Mekong River over developing hydropower reserve on the border river."
"The Chinese developers paid great attention to the trans-border impact from hydropower development from the very beginning, carried out research on potential ecological impact from such development and took into consideration the interest of areas along the upper and lower reaches of Lancang River while laying down the designs for building hydropower stations," he said.
To limit the negative impact on fishing from the hydropower station construction on the river, Chinese developers have taken a range of measures. These include the establishment of nature reserves for fish.
The Nuozhadu hydropower station, for instance, has been designed to take in water from different spots in a bid to prevent the temperature of what is discharged from the station from getting too low to harm the growth of fish downstream.