Feature: Chinese-built largest pumped storage power station in Israel in full swing


JERUSALEM, Oct. 7 (Xinhua) -- Summer heat still struck northeastern Israel near Jordan Valley in early October, with noon temperature reaching as high as 36 degrees Celsius. Under the scorching sun, a group of Chinese constructors is striving to perfect their project.

The 344-MW Kokhav Hayarden pumped storage hydropower plant, located near the city of Beit She'an and some 120 km away from Tel Aviv, is built to become the largest pumped storage power plant in Israel.

It will also become the lowest power plant of such kind in the world, as the powerhouse lies 275 meters below sea level, according to building contractor Power Construction Corporation of China (PCCC).

Israel is eager to continue its efforts in diversifying sources of energy as well as developing renewable energy sources.

According to data released in 2020, renewable energy accounts for less than 7 percent of the total energy in the country. In 2022, the Israeli Ministry of Environment released a new renewable energy roadmap, targeting 40 percent of renewables in the country's power mix by 2030.

"Pumped storage hydropower provides an economical, efficient and stable way of hydroelectric energy storage. Acting similarly to a giant battery, it can store power and then release it when needed," explained Han Hongwei, general manager of the project.

"It is a configuration of two water reservoirs at different elevations which can generate power as water moves down from one to the other," he added.

In late September, construction of the lower reservoir, which lies 236 meters below sea level and with a storage capacity of 3.16 million cubic meters, was completed. The over 200,000 square meters of white impervious geomembrane is particularly eye-catching in the mountains beside highway 90, the longest road in Israel.

Ao Guohui, the project implementation manager, said that the team has gone all out to complete the reservoir before the arrival of the rainy season in November, so as to meet the requirements of flood control and achieve the water storage target at an early date.

According to Ao, as the project is located at the end of the northern extension of the East African Rift, the special geographical condition makes the construction process particularly challenging.

After numerous brainstorming and in-depth analysis, complex technical difficulties have been conquered one after another, and appropriate plans have been implemented step by step.

"For example, multiple anti-filter water cut-off troughs are added along the slope to divert underground water seepage into the reverse pumping well, which effectively solved the problem of excavation seepage," Ao said.

According to Han, the project, expected to be operational in early 2023, is undertaken by PCCC and General Electric as an EPC (engineering, procurement and construction) contractor. An international team composed of over 700 people from 17 countries has been gathered, including China, France, Germany, South Africa, India and Moldova.

Despite the difference in cultural backgrounds and professional fields, everyone's competitive edge has been given full play, and an effective multicultural communication mechanism has been established, he said.

Ibrahim Monder, an Arab engineer in charge of production safety, told Xinhua in a deep tunnel where the -275 meters powerhouse was installed, that he has gained a lot of expertise through working with the Chinese team in the past five years, especially in the field of shaft sinking.

"If it hadn't been a Chinese company, the project would not have progressed so fast and the quality would not have been so good," said Yehuda Aronov, a Jewish execution engineer.

Getting along with Chinese colleagues day after day, Aronov has forged friendships with them, deepened his understanding of China, and mastered the elementary Chinese language.

With a passion for traditional Chinese culture, on the wall of his office, Aronov hung a portrait and philosophical argument of Laozi, a reputed Chinese philosopher who founded the philosophical system of Taoism, which read: "A long journey starts with a small step."

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