A tour of a smart energy enterprise in Sichuan

August 23, 2019 12:47

Every year, the Endeavour Education Centre arranges a summer tour on power and energy for Hong Kong teachers, and this year the group visited a hydroelectric power facility in southwestern China's Sichuan province.

While many believe that the rapid growth of China's economy over the past 40 years was achieved at the expense of the environment, which is unsustainable, the Dadu River hydropower project shows that the nation has been making impressive and solid progress in clean energy and smart city development.

The Dadu River flows from the eastern Tibetan plateau into the Sichuan basin where it joins the Min River, a tributary of the Yangtze River. The 1,062-kilometer-long river has sufficient volume and an elevation of 4,579 meters, making it ideal for the construction of multiple hydroelectric dams.

The Dadu River Hydropower Development Co. Ltd. is responsible for the building of 17 substations in 14 counties and two cities, with a total installed capacity of 18 million kilowatts.

At present, six stations have been in operation and two more are under construction. The remaining nine units are still in the planning stage. Upon completion, the total power generation would be more than sufficient to support the needs of two Hong Kongs.

Since hydroelectric power is a renewable energy source, it helps reduce carbon emissions from traditional power plants that rely on the burning of fossil fuel.

As such, Dadu River Hydropower plays a key role in cutting carbon emissions and carbon trading with foreign companies.

Our group visited one of the stations located in the lower section of the river. To our surprise, there was no one in the control room as we were told that all monitoring and supervision are now conducted remotely in the headquarters in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan.

Thanks to wired and wireless networks, the company can gather large amounts of data, including images and videos, which are transmitted in real-time so that the power stations can be monitored, controlled, and diagnosed from a distance.

At the headquarters’ centralized control room, multiple displays show detailed information about weather forecasts, operating conditions, power supply and river condition at each of the power stations, all of which are gathered by tens of thousands of automated monitoring points.

The company is also designing a smart inspection robot for site inspections.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Aug 12

Translation by John Chui

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Former Secretary for Home Affairs