Work on the scheme started just over two years ago and it is part of a wider expansion of hydro power resources on the Yangtze catchment, upstream of the Three Gorges project. The Jinsha river is also known as Jianshajiang.

Cost estimates for the scheme were then put at approximately Rmb 28.9B (US$3.7B, now US$4.2B due to currency effects over the last two years). However, higher budget figures have been cited for the scheme.

The project was originally proposed in 1957 and when completed, by 2015, is expected to generate about 31,000GWh of electricity annually.

Other key projects to be built above Xiangjiaba, also by the China Yangtze Electric Power Co, are Xiluodu (12.6GW), Biahetan and Wudongde. Others are also planned.

The Xiluodu scheme has been under construction since 2005 and was due for first power in October 2012 and completion in mid-2015, about the same time as Xiangjiaba. The first unit had been planned to commence operations in June 2012.

Xiluodu has suffered delays due to pressure from the State Environmental Protection Administration (Sepa) but damming finally commenced in late 2007.