One-hour west from Kunming, the capital of China’s Yunnan Province, lies an agricultural area of rolling hills and rivers where most homes and buildings feature murals of dinosaurs. The reason for these depictions is that this valley is famous as a rich source of fossils from the Jurassic age. Indeed, through these very hills, once lush with tropical vegetation, walked the largest, most formidable creatures to ever inhabit the earth. Yet, continuing along the winding mountain roads that bypass small rural villages, one soon comes across a facility that is in every way the very antithesis of dinosaurs – a modern converter substation that stretches over a huge plateau and is fed by numerous transmission lines snaking in from every direction. Out of the other side of this facility are two huge towers that mark the exits of two poles of the ± 800 kV DC line that come together on the next tower and start a 1400 km journey across China, carrying some 5000 MW to the energy-hungry industrial cities of Guangdong Province.
Part of a project costing some RMB 17 billion (US $ 2.5 billion), the Chuxiong Converter Station, which lies at 1824 m altitude, was begun in the summer of 2008 and is in many ways the same as the Suidong Converter Station at the other end. There are some notable exceptions, however, due especially to the seismic needs of an area of China where earthquakes are always a threat. In 2009, INMR was given the privilege of a tour of this high-tech marvel as it neared completion. To quote a famous Chinese maxim, the following photos are worth a thousand words and need little further comment.