Chinese engineers have announced they are nearing completion of the landmark Maerdang Dam hydroelectric project on the upper Yellow River.
Built at an elevation of 5 000 metres above sea level in the rocky mountains of Maqên County, the 2.2 million kilowatt hydropower facility is expected to begin operating early next year.
The Maerdang hydropower station will be the “highest facility of its kind”, according to the project operator, China Energy Investment Corp (China Electric).
Construction of the concrete-face rock-fill dam began in 2012 and is part of China’s efforts to end reliance on fossil fuels and non-renewable energy sources, in line with the Paris Climate Accords.
When running at an installed capacity of 2.2 million kilowatts, the Maerdang plant is expected to generate an average of 7.3 billion kilowatt-hours of energy every year, according to China Electric.
The state-owned energy firm said the megaproject could cut an estimated 8.16 million tons of greenhouse emissions from escaping into the atmosphere every year and reduce coal consumption in the sector by as many as 2.56 million tons of standard coal equivalent.
Despite logistical woes still suffered throughout the industry in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, Li Hongxin, deputy director of Qinghai Maerdang, told the local press he expects the high-altitude hydropower facility will be fully operational by its anticipated date of March 2024.
The Maerdang project, situated on the Tibetan plateau in China’s western Qinghai Province, is one of several energy projects in the area, as Beijing seeks to take advantage of the abundance of renewable resources in the sparsely populated region.
China Electric is also close to finishing its 3 gigawatt solar plant in the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, according to technology website, Interesting Engineering.
The $2.2 billion solar panel base will have a reported output of 5.78 billion kilowatt-hours every year, reducing coal consumption by 1.92 million tons of standard coal equivalent, according to the Chinese media agency, Global Times.
Chinese industry is slowly transitioning away from fossil fuels towards greener alternatives.
According to a report from the Shanghai Securities News, the country’s reliance on renewable energy sources as a percentage is expected to surpass the 50 per cent mark as soon as 2025. In that period, wind and solar usage will have doubled.