The Three Gorges Project

The Three Gorges Hydropower Station, located in Sandouping, Yichang City, Hubei Province, is the largest finished hydropower station in the world. Up to now, it has been the 6th year in a row for the Three Gorges Project to achieve its 175-meter impounding trial target, with it's comprehensive benefits in flood control, shipping, power generation and water replenishment brought together for a remarkable play. It's importance and function in the development of the Yangtze River economic zone is becoming all the more obvious, and it's role in ensuring the security in flood control, shipping, water supply and ecology of the Yangtze River basin as well as China's energy security is ever increasing.

  • In 1918, Mr. Sun Yat-sen put forward the original idea of the construction of the Three Gorges project.
  • In 1953, Chairman Mao Zedong clearly indicated that he wanted a reservoir to be built at the Three Gorges.
  • In April, 1992, Resolution on the Construction of the Three Gorges Project was adopted at the 5th Session of the 7th National People's Congress (NPC) of the People's Republic of China.
  • In December, 1994, the construction of the Three Gorges Project formally started.
  • In November, 1997, main channel closure for the Three Gorges Project was successful.
  • In June, 2003, three targets of the Three Gorges Project--135-meter water-level impounding, trial navigation of the five-level ship lock and formal operation of the first generating units--were realized.
  • In June, 2003, the DC power transmission project between the Three Gorges and Changzhou went into operation.
  • In Sept, 2005, the 14 generating units of the Three Gorges Left Bank Power Station all went into operation.
  • In October, 2006, the initial target of 135-meter water-level impounding for the Three Gorges reservoir was realized.
  • At the end of December, 2009, the primary design and construction of the Three Gorges Project was completed as scheduled.
  • In July, 2009, the 32 generating units of the Three Gorges Project (with unit capacity of 700 MW) all went into operation.
  • On January, 2016, the accumulated generation of Three Gorges Hydropower Plant reached 900 TWh.
  • On March, 2017, the accumulated generation of Three Gorges Hydropower Plant reached 1000 TWh.
Scale of the Project

The Three Gorges Dam is a concrete gravity dam, with its maximum length being 2,335 meters, a width of 115 meters at the bottom and a width of 40 meters at the top, its maximum height being 185 meters and its normal impoundment level being 175 meters. The dam can even withstand a flood that only happens once in a century. Its maximum discharge can reach 100,000 m3/s. For the whole project, about 134 million m3 of earth and stone was cut and filled, 28 million m3 of concrete was poured, and 593,000 tons of steel was used. The reservoir is over 600 km long, covering 1,084 km2 with its average surface width being 1,100 km. The total storage capacity of the reservoir is 39.3 billion m3, of which 22.15 billion m3 is for flood control. The reservoir is capable of seasonal regulation.

The generating units of the Three Gorges Hydropower Station are located at the rear of the dam. In total, 32 sets of 700 MW hydroturbine generating units have been installed, of which 14 sets are in the left-bank power plant, 12 sets are in the right-bank power plant and 6 sets are for the underground power plant. In addition, there are 2 sets of 50 MW generating units. With a total installed capacity of 22,500 MW, the Three Gorges Hydropower Station exceeds the runner-up in the world in terms of installed capacity--the Itaipu Hydropower Project--with a great margin.

According to the initial planning for the Three Gorges Hydropower Station, 26 sets of 700 MW generating units would be built, with a total installed capacity of 18,200 MW and an annual power generation of 84.7 TWh. Later, an underground power station was built inside Mount Baishijian on the right-bank dam, for which 6 sets of 700 MW hydroturbine generating sets were installed. If the two power source stations of the Three Gorges Hydropower Station are also included, the total installed capacity has reached 22,500 MW.

With its annual cumulative power generation standing at 98.8 TWh, the Three Gorges Hydropower Station reduces coal consumption by 49 million tons and carbon dioxide emission by nearly 100 million tons each year. If 1 kWh contributes to GDP by 10 RMB, the annual clean power generated by the Three Gorges Hydropower Station can create nearly 1 trillion of wealth for the State each year.

Comprehensive Benefits

There are four major benefits brought about by the Three Gorges Project, i.e., flood control, power generation, navigation and water replenishment, with flood control as a top priority .

Flood Control

In history, floods happened frequently in the upstream sections and several tributaries of the Yangtze River. In such cases, flood diversion must be implemented for the Jingjiang section of the river down Yichang to ensure the safety of Wuhan; as a result, some rural areas and farmlands were inundated. With the completion of the Three Gorges Project, the regulation and storage capabilities provided by the immense storage capacity of the reservoir can enable the lower reaches of the river in Jingjiang to withstand even the worst flood of the century; in addition, it is also conducive to the harnessing of the Dongting Lake and the overall repair of the embankment of the Jingjiang section.

Power Generation

The economic benefit of the Three Gorges Project is mainly reflected in power generation. This project is a giant power source for the middle route of the West-to-East Power Transmission project. The power generated is mainly sold to Hubei, Henan, Hunan, Jiangxi, and Chongqing of the central China grid, Shanghai, Jiangsu, Zhejiang and Anhui of the eastern China grid, and Guangdong of the southern China grid, to alleviate the tension in power supply in China.


Before impoundment at the Three Gorges reservoir, the annual one-way transportation volume on the Chuanjiang River was only 10 million tons, and it was impossible for ships with a tonnage of 1,000 or above to navigate to Chongqing. The Three Gorges Project puts an end to this history and the saying, "there was no navigation in the night on the Chuanjiang River", improving the navigation condition several times at the Three Gorges.

Water Replenishment

The Three Gorges Reservoir is like a bank of water resources for flood retention and drought relief. In 2016, the Three Gorges Reservoir replenished a total water amount of 21.8 billion m3 to the downstream areas. In October 2016, the drought intensified in Dongting Lake and Poyang Lake. The Three Gorges Reservoir increased discharge flow, continuously replenished water to the downstream areas, effectively alleviated the drought, guaranteed the water supply to daily life, production and ecological use in the lower reaches, and ensured smooth navigation in the Yangtze River.


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