13.86-GW Xiluodu hydroelectric project prepares for El Nino effect

On May 27, CCTV News reported engineers continue to make spillway-gate repairs and “patrol teams are removing floating objects” from the Xiluodu Reservoir, part of the 13.86-GW Xiluodu hydroelectric project in China. The efforts are intended to ensure gates at Xiluodu Dam can discharge flood waters resulting from the ongoing El Nino weather event.

Flow from the reservoir is discharged at the dam via five massive control gates operated by fixed-hoist headstock gears that include: a 1,600-ton gate, which is the world’s heaviest control gate; and four additional gates, each weighing 1,200 tons.

Reports published in April indicate China’s Ministry of Water Resources thinks the current El Nino event is similar to the 1998 event that triggered heavy flooding of the Yangtze River, which resulted in 1,320 fatalities.

The Xiluodu project is located on the upper Yangtze River in the Jinsha Jiang River Valley on the boarder of Sichuan Province and Yunnan Province.

“Xiluodu hydropower plant is currently the largest in terms of storage capacity on the Jinsha Jiang River,” said Liao Jianxin, head of the facility’s engineering team. “It plays a crucial role in controlling flood waters, and protecting areas downstream during flood season.”

The scheme includes a double-curvature arch concrete dam 278-m high by 700-m wide that impounds the Jinsha Jang River, creating the reservoir. Xiluodu Reservoir has a capacity of 12.67 billion cubic m and flood control capacity of 4.65 billion cubic m, according to it developer, China International Water & Electric Corp., the wholly-owned subsidiary of state-owned China Three Gorges Corp. (CTG).

Jianxin added, even though power generation is the facility’s primary task, coping with the flood is also of utmost importance.

The project also includes underground powerhouses on the right and left river banks, each containing nine Francis-type generating units and a flood discharge structure.

The project, constructed at a cost of US$6.2 billion, was commissioned in July 2013 and is the world’s third-largest hydroelectric scheme, in terms of installed capacity.  CTG’s 22.5-GW Three Gorges project in Hubei Province, is the planet’s largest hydro facility followed by the 14-GW Itaipu hydro project in Brazil/Paraguay.

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Gregory B. Poindexter formerly was an associate editor for HydroWorld.com.

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