Drought in China significantly cuts hydroelectric output
The worst drought to hit central China in half a century has brought water levels in some of the country's biggest hydropower producing regions to critical levels and could exacerbate electricity shortages over the summer.
The official Xinhua news agency said on Wednesday that the water level at the world's biggest hydropower plant at the Three Gorges Dam in Hubei province has fallen to 152.7 meters, well below the 156-m mark required to run its 26 turbines effectively.
Total capacity at the Three Gorges hydropower project amounts to 18.2 gigawatts, the equivalent of about 15 third-generation nuclear reactors and more than a third of Hubei's total. It generated 84.4 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity in 2010, delivering power as far afield as Shanghai on the eastern coast.
The water level is expected to fall further to around 145 meters by June 10, when planned discharges are scheduled to end.
The drought has struck at the time of year when China's hydropower output would normally surge. Hydro output bottoms out in January and February and peaks over the summer. During six months of last year, from May to October, 20 percent of China's electricity generation was hydropower.
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