China switches on world’s biggest ultra-high voltage line

Power lines carrying electricity from the Golmud Solar Park hang from transmission towers on the outskirts of Golmud, Qinghai province, China, on Wednesday, July 25, 2018.
Power lines carrying electricity from the Golmud Solar Park hang from transmission towers on the outskirts of Golmud, Qinghai province, China, on Wednesday, July 25, 2018.

State Grid Corp. of China has started up the world’s longest and most-powerful ultra-high voltage power line from its far northwest to the heavily populated east.

The 1,100-kilovolt direct-current Changji-to-Guquan project stretches 3,293 kilometers (2,046 miles), the nation’s biggest electricity distributor said in a statement Wednesday. That’s roughly the distance between Los Angeles and Cleveland. The 40.7 billion yuan ($5.9 billion) project, which the company referred to as the “Power Silk Road,” was approved in December 2015 and construction started the next month.

China has increasingly relied on UHV technology to send electricity from remote regions with excess supply to areas of higher demand. Xinjiang, where the new line starts, is home to large-scale wind and solar projects, but also the nation’s worst curtailment rates, or capacity that’s idle because of grid congestion, according to the National Energy Administration. The NEA has also banned the construction of new coal-fired plants in Xinjiang, as well as 20 other provinces, because of an expected overcapacity.

The project is “part of the nation’s strategy to shift electricity from the west to the east to ease electricity surplus in the west, given a backdrop that such infrastructure investments can drive economy,” said Nannan Kou, head of China Research at Bloomberg NEF in Beijing.

The new line, which can transmit 12 gigawatts of power, runs through Gansu, Ningxia, Shaanxi and Henan provinces before ending in the Anhui province city of Xuancheng. It can supply 66 billion kilowatt hours of electricity to eastern China annually, meeting power demand of 50 million households and reducing coal use by 30.24 million tons, State Grid said.

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