This aerial photo taken on June 26, 2021 shows the 289-metre tall Baihetan Hydropower Station in Zhaotong, in China's southwestern Yunnan province. Image Credit: AFP

BEIJING: China began operating the world’s second-largest hydropower station on Monday in what officials hailed as a milestone towards Beijing’s carbon neutrality goals.

The 289-metre (948 feet) high Baihetan Hydropower Station in southwest China, second in the world only to the country’s Three Gorges Dam in terms of power generation, began partial operation Monday morning, state media reported.

Baihetan was built with a total installed capacity of 16,000 megawatts, which means it will eventually be able to generate enough electricity each day once to meet the power needs of 500,000 people for an entire year, according to state broadcaster CCTV.

The country has been on a hydropower building spree in recent years as it races to meet the ever-growing energy needs of the world’s largest population.

The dam spans a deep, narrow gorge on the upper section of the Yangtze, China’s longest river, on the earthquake-prone border between Yunnan and Sichuan provinces.

Chinese President Xi Jinping said he hoped the plant would be able to “make greater contributions toward achieving the goals of carbon peaking and carbon neutrality,” in a congratulatory message published by the government.

The Baihetan dam’s trial run on Monday coincides with celebrations of the Communist Party’s centenary this week.

Xi’s pledge last year to reach carbon neutrality by 2060 has added urgency to the construction.