SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China’s massive Wudongde hydropower plant has begun generating power after a trial run, its owner announced, marking the launch of the latest in a series of costly and controversial giant dams on the upper reaches of the Yangtze river.
A ceremony was held on Monday to mark the coming on stream of the first unit of the Wudongde power plant, built near the provincial border of Yunnan and Sichuan on the Jinsha river, the upstream branch of the Yangtze.
Wudongde began construction at the end of 2015 and will be fully completed by the second half of next year, according to the Three Gorges Project Corporation, the state-owned firm in charge of the project.
The project has a designed capacity of more than 10 gigawatts and its 270-metre high dam is one of the tallest in the world, dwarfing the one at the Three Gorges project around 950 kilometres (590 miles) to the east, which stands at 181 metres. Around 32,000 residents have been displaced to make way for a 7.4 billion cubic metre reservoir.
State news agency Xinhua said total investment in the project stands at 120 billion yuan ($16.95 billion).
The project is part of a “cascade” of six giant hydropower plants built on the middle and upper reaches of the Yangtze by the Three Gorges Project Corporation.
Environmentalists say the projects have caused irreparable damage to the region’s already fragile environment, but the government insists any negative aspects are outweighed by the benefits of clean power, easier navigation and more effective flood control.
It will form part of China’s West-East Power Transmission Project aimed at delivering electricity to the high energy-consuming market along the eastern coast via ultra-high voltage grids, though critics say there is not enough cross-country grid capacity or power demand to justify such projects.
($1 = 7.0794 yuan)
Reporting by David Stanway; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell