Chinese officials on June 25 said the first phase of what is considered the world’s largest combined hydro and solar power plant has entered commercial operation.
The Kela hydro/solar plant, part of an ambitious project anchored by the Lianghekou Hydropower Station on the Yalong River, is located in Yaijiang County in southwest China’s Sichuan Province. PowerChina Chengdu Engineering, the group leading construction, has said the multi-phase installation when complete could have as much as 100 million kilowatts (100 GW) of generation capacity, with annual production of about 300 billion kWh. The first phase of the project sits at an altitude of about 15,000 feet—the highest elevation for a power plant in the world.
The first phase of Kela includes 1 GW of solar power capacity and 3 GW of hydropower generation. The Lianghekou station, which will be fully operational this year, is a 3-GW hydroelectric facility featuring six 500-MW Francis turbines.
Government officials on Sunday said the hybrid solar-hydro design of Kela will leverage the consistent energy production of hydropower to offset the variability of solar power.
Xinhua, China’s state-run news agency, reported that the hybrid design “serves as a good example for large-scale centralized development of clean energy in the world.” Officials said Kela is the world’s first gigawatt-level hybrid station, surpassing the 850-MW capacity of a hydro/solar installation in Longyang Gorge in China’s Qinghai province.
Government officials said they expect the first 50 GW of the entire hybrid project will be operational by 2030. Xinhua reported that “When the clean energy project is fully built, it will have a total capacity exceeding 100 GW, producing approximately 300 billion kilowatt-hours annually, enough for 100 million households.”
The initial Kela installation covers an area of more than 6.2 square miles. It includes more than 2 million solar panels. PowerChina Chengdu Engineering said it began designing the project in 2016 with construction beginning last year.
—Darrell Proctor is a senior associate editor for POWER (@POWERmagazine).