UPDATE – China restores hydro plant; quake interrupts grid links

Chinese officials said May 19 that earthquake debris was cleared from the 760-MW Zipingpu hydroelectric plant — previously described as “collapsed” — and that units are repaired and delivering electricity.

Zipingpu Dam, one of Sichuan Province’s biggest hydropower projects, was badly hit by the 7.9 magnitude earthquake that struck the region May 12, killing nearly 32,500 people. State media has said the death toll eventually could exceed 50,000. (HNN 5/15/08)

Three generators at the two-year-old Zipingpu returned to operation over the weekend, nearly a week after the quake, the Ministry of Water Resources reported. State-run Xinhua news agency said the dam had been damaged and turbines were “substantially affected.” The agency said debris from the earthquake also disrupted normal water flows to and from the facility. After repairs, Xinhua said, inspections indicated the plant now could operate normally.

Chinese officials declared Zipingpu Dam, on the Min River, to be stable May 15 despite damage. Water levels in the Zipingpu reservoir were drawn lower, reducing the risk of floods, the ministry said. Xinhua said 2,000 soldiers were sent to repair cracks in the dam.

The State Electricity Regulatory Commission said the Sichuan grid was carrying 24 percent less power than before the earthquake after some hydropower plants lost grid connections and two coal-fired plants ran out of coal. As of May 18, maximum electricity flows were at 9.89 gigawatts, or 76 percent of pre-quake levels of 13.01 GW.

A total of 27 hydropower stations in the western part of Sichuan, mostly in the Min River region, lost grid connections after the quake. The commission said only seven had restored operations by late May 18.

The commission did not specify the total generating capacity of the plants. Sichuan has about 30 GW of generating capacity, of which more than 60 percent is from hydropower plants.

The agency said hydropower projects on the Min River could maintain stability temporarily if there were no more major earthquakes and floods, while five projects on other rivers affected by the quake also were stable.

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