The Three Gorges Dam is the world’s largest hydropower project and most notorious dam. It spans the Yangtze River by the town of Sandouping, located in the Yiling District, Yichang, Hubei province in China. It is the world’s largest power station with an installed capacity of 22,500 MW and the world’s largest operating hydroelectric facility with an annual energy generation of 98.8 TWh in 2014.
The construction of the dam began in 1994 and the project, except for a ship lift, was completed and fully functional in July 2012, when the last of the main water turbines in the underground plant began production. The power station of the Three Gorges Dam features 34 generators. 32 main generators, each with a capacity of 700 MW, and two plant power generators, each with a capacity of 50 MW, making a total capacity of 22,500 MW. The expected annual energy generation will be over 100 TWh.
The Three Gorges Dam is made of concrete and steel. It is 2,335 m long and the top of the dam is at 185 m above sea level. The project used about 27.2 million cubic meters of concrete and 463,000 tons of steel, and about 102.6 million cubic meters of earth were moved for its realization. When the water level is at its maximum, the dam reservoir is on average about 600 km in length and 1.12 km in width. It then contains 39.3 cubic kilometers of water and has a total surface area of 1,045 square kilometers.
The dam has been a controversial topic both domestically and abroad. On the one hand the project is regarded as a historic engineering success, on the other hand it is inducing significant ecological changes and blamed to cause serious environmental problems.
The massive project does not only set records in terms of installed capacity and annual energy generation, but also in terms of altering the ecosystem. For the realization of the Three Gorges Dam 13 cities, 140 towns and more than 1,600 villages have been submerged under the reservoir and an official count of 1.3 million people were relocated.