This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

June 11, 2003

World's Largest Hydropower Project Now Filling its Reservoir in China

The largest hydropower project in the world is now filling its reservoir in preparation for producing power later this year. Located on China's Yangtze River, the Three Gorges Project has been under construction since 1994 and will eventually achieve a capacity of 18,200 megawatts. When completed in 2009, it is expected to generate nearly 85 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity each year, equal to about 6.5 percent of the country's electrical needs in 2001. The reservoir began filling on the morning of June 1st, when the gates of 19 water diversion holes at the bottom of the dam were closed. See the Chinese Embassy press release.

Flood control was China's primary motivation for building the controversial water project. According to the Chinese Embassy, its reservoir will inundate a record 244 square miles of land stretched out over 412 miles of the river, most likely displacing about 1.2 million people in 365 townships. See the Chinese Embassy fact sheet.

In contrast to the Three Gorges Project, hydropower capacity in the United States has recently been characterized by small-scale projects, capacity-adding refurbishments of existing projects, and occasional decommissioning of older units. For instance, PacifiCorp recently agreed to decommission and eventually remove the 6-megawatt Powerdale Hydropower Project on Hood River in Oregon, starting in 2010. Meanwhile, in Idaho, a U.S. Bureau of Reclamation project is refurbishing an old hydropower plant to generate 3 megawatts of power. Built in 1912, the plant hasn't operated since 1982. See the press releases from PacifiCorp and the Bureau of Reclamation.