On Wednesday the Three Gorges dam in China had its 32nd, 700-megawatt turbine installed, completing the mega-project and bringing its total capacity up to 22.5 gigawatts, making it the largest hydropower installation in the world.
The Three Gorges project has been fully connected to the power grid where it generates 11 percent of China’s total hydroelectric output. Construction started in 1994, and first started generating power for the grid in 2003, since which time it has saved, on average, 200 million tonnes of coal a year.
Zhang Cheng, the manager of China Yangtze Power (the company operating the dam), said that, “the complete operation of all the generators makes the Three Gorges dam the world's largest hydropower project, and the largest base for clean energy.”
However, at a cost of over $38 billion, four times the original estimate, and resulting in at least 1.3 million people being relocated from their homes due to increased risk of earthquakes and landslides in the region, has the price for this particular renewable energy source been too much?
Beijing does not seem to thinks so. Despite the huge costs, the displacement of citizens from their homes, and the risk to the environment they have committed to developing a further 140GW of hydroelectric power by 2015 in order to stay on track to meet their ambitious renewable energy targets.
By. James Burgess of Oilprice.com