20 largest Hydropower Plant in the World

20 largest Hydropower Plant in the World

 Sustainable Energy 

 Hydro Power 


8 minutes read

Understanding Hydropower Plant

What is Hydropower Power Plant

A hydropower plant is a facility that uses the energy of falling water to generate electricity. 

Hydropower is a renewable energy source that can be used to generate electricity on a large scale. 

Hydropower plants are facilities that harness the energy of moving water to generate electricity. It's a mature and widely used renewable energy source, playing a significant role in global electricity production.These plants utilize dams and turbines to convert water flow into electricity. 

Here's a breakdown of the typical operation:

  1. Dam and Reservoir: A dam is constructed across a river, creating a reservoir to store water.
  2. Water Release: Controlled amounts of water are released from the reservoir.
  3. Turbine Rotation: The released water flows through a turbine, causing it to spin.
  4. Electricity Generation: The spinning turbine is connected to a generator, which converts the mechanical energy into electricity.

There are three main types of hydropower plants each with its approach to water management:

  • Run-of-River Plants: These rely on the natural flow of a river without dams, making them less disruptive but also less controllable in terms of electricity generation.
  • Reservoir Plants: These utilize dams and reservoirs to store water. This allows for electricity generation during peak demand periods, even when river flow is low.
  • Pumped Storage Plants: These unique facilities use electricity during off-peak hours to pump water uphill to a reservoir. The stored water can then be released later to generate electricity when demand is high.

Outlook

In a hydropo inwer plant, water is held behind a dam, which creates a reservoir. The water in the reservoir is then released through gates and falls through a penstock, which is a large pipe that leads to the turbines. 

The falling water drives the turbines, which are connected to generators that produce electricity. The amount of electricity that can be generated by a hydropower plant depends on the amount of water flowing through the turbines, which is controlled by the dam. Hydropower is a clean and renewable energy source that does not produce greenhouse gases or other harmful pollutants.

Hydropower Statistics Table

Here's a table outlining some key statistics about global hydropower:

StatisticDescriptionValue/RangeSource
Total Installed CapacityGlobal electricity generation capacity from hydropower plants1,370 GW (as of 2023)International Hydropower Association [source can be found online by searching for "International Hydropower Association statistics"]
Annual Electricity GenerationTotal amount of electricity produced by hydropower plants globally each year4,200 TWh (as of 2023)International Renewable Energy Agency [source can be found online by searching for "International Renewable Energy Agency hydropower statistics"]
Share of Global ElectricityPercentage of global electricity generation from hydropower18% (as of 2023)International Energy Agency [source can be found online by searching for "International Energy Agency hydropower data"]
Leading Hydropower ProducersCountries with the highest installed hydropower capacityChina, Brazil, USA, Russia, CanadaInternational Hydropower Association [source can be found online by searching for "International Hydropower Association statistics"]
Cost of Electricity GenerationAverage cost of generating electricity from hydropower plants$0.02-0.05 USD per kWh (varies depending on location and plant type)International Renewable Energy Agency [source can be found online by searching for "International Renewable Energy Agency hydropower costs"]

Additional Notes:

  • This table provides a general overview. Specific values may vary depending on the chosen source.
  • Hydropower remains the largest source of renewable electricity globally.
  • The cost of hydropower generation is generally considered stable and competitive compared to other sources.


largest Hydropower Plant

Benefit of Hydropower Plant

Hydropower power plants offer several benefits, including:

Renewable energy: Hydropower is a renewable source of energy that relies on the natural cycle of water.

Clean energy: Hydropower does not produce any air pollution, greenhouse gases or toxic waste, making it a clean source of energy.

Cost-effective: Once a hydropower plant is built, the cost of generating electricity is relatively low. This makes hydropower an attractive option for countries looking to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels.

Long lifespan: Hydropower plants can last for several decades and require minimal maintenance, making them a long-term investment.

Water management: Hydropower plants can be used to manage water resources by regulating the flow of water in rivers and reservoirs. This can help prevent floods and droughts.

Flexibility: Hydropower plants can be turned on and off quickly, making them ideal for balancing the electricity grid and providing backup power during times of high demand.

Job creation: Hydropower plants require skilled workers to design, build, and maintain the infrastructure. This creates jobs and stimulates the local economy.

Tourism: Many hydropower plants are located in scenic areas and can attract tourists who are interested in seeing the infrastructure and learning about the benefits of renewable energy


largest Hydropower Plant

20 largest Hydropower Plants in the World

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for the 20 Largest Hydropower Plants in the World

Here's a breakdown of some key performance indicators (KPIs) for the 20 largest hydropower plants globally:

Capacity (MW): This showcases the maximum electricity generating potential of a plant. The Three Gorges Dam in China leads the pack at a staggering 22,500 MW capacity.

Annual Generation (TWh): This KPI reflects the actual amount of electricity a hydropower plant produces in a year. Itaipu Dam, on the border of Brazil and Paraguay, holds the record for annual generation, reaching 103 TWh in 2016. Data for recently constructed plants might not be readily available.

Capacity Factor: This metric indicates how effectively a plant utilizes its installed capacity. While capacity showcases the maximum potential, the capacity factor reveals the actual electricity production as a percentage of that maximum.

Downtime: This KPI measures the amount of time a plant is not operational due to maintenance, repairs, or unforeseen circumstances. Lower downtime signifies better efficiency and reliability.

Additional Considerations:

  • Environmental impact: Hydropower is considered a clean energy source, but considerations like dam construction and ecosystem disruption need to be factored in.
  • Social impact: Resettlement of communities due to dam construction and potential changes in water flow are important social impact considerations.

Data Availability:

Finding information on all these KPIs might require consulting various sources. While capacity data is usually available, annual generation and capacity factor might require searching through industry publications or reports.

By analyzing these KPIs, we can gain insights into the effectiveness of these large hydropower plants in terms of electricity generation, efficiency, and potential environmental and social impacts.


Largest Hydropower Plant: Three Gorges Dam Hydropower Plant in China

Three Gorges Dam, China

The idea of constructing a dam on the Yangtze River dates back to the early 20th century when Sun Yat-sen, the founder of modern China, proposed the construction of a hydroelectric dam on the river. However, the project was not pursued due to financial and technical constraints. In the 1950s, the Chinese government initiated studies on the feasibility of constructing a dam on the Yangtze River. However, the project was put on hold due to political and economic instability in the country.

With an installed capacity of 22,500 MW, the Three Gorges Dam is the largest hydroelectric power station in the world. It is located on the Yangtze River in China and was completed in 2012.

China Three Gorges Corporation - Installed Capacity: 22,500 MW - Type of turbine: Francis


Largest Hydropower Plant:  Itaipu Dam

Itaipu Dam, Brazil/Paraguay

The Itaipu Dam, located on the border between Brazil and Paraguay, stands as a testament to human ingenuity and the pursuit of sustainable energy solutions. Built on the mighty Paraná River, this colossal hydroelectric power plant has revolutionized the way we generate electricity, providing a clean and renewable source of energy to millions of people. 

Itaipu Binacional - Installed Capacity: 14,000 MW - Type of turbine: Kaplan


Largest Hydropower Plant: Xiluodu Dam

Xiluodu Dam, China

The Xiluodu Dam has an installed capacity of 13,860 MW and is located on the Jinsha River in China. It was completed in 2014.

The Xiluodu Dam is a gravity dam that stands at a height of 285 meters and has a length of 700 meters. The dam's reservoir has a capacity of 12.67 billion cubic meters, making it one of the largest reservoirs in the world. The power plant has a total installed capacity of 13,860 MW, which is generated by the 18 Francis turbines, each with a capacity of 770 MW.

Huaneng Group and CPI - Installed Capacity: 13,860 MW - Type of turbine: Francis


Largest Hydropower Plant:  Guri Dam

Guri Dam, Venezuela

The idea of building a dam on the Caroni River dates back to the 1950s. In 1953, the Venezuelan government signed a contract with the American company Electric Bond and Share (EBASCO) to conduct a feasibility study on the construction of a hydroelectric power plant in the area. The study recommended the construction of a dam on the Caroni River to generate electricity.

The Guri Dam has an installed capacity of 10,235 MW and is located on the Caroni River in Venezuela. It was completed in 1986.

Corpoelec - Installed Capacity: 10,235 MW - Type of turbine: Francis


Largest Hydropower Plant:  Tucuruí Dam

Tucuruí Dam, Brazil

The Tucuruí Dam was constructed by the Brazilian government to meet the country's growing demand for electricity in the 1970s. The project was part of a larger effort to develop Brazil's infrastructure and spur economic growth. The government recognized the potential of the Tocantins River Basin as a source of hydropower, and the Tucuruí Dam was identified as the centerpiece of the Tucuruí Hydroelectric Complex.

The Tucuruí Dam has an installed capacity of 8,370 MW and is located on the Tocantins River in Brazil. It was completed in 1984.

Eletronorte - Installed Capacity: 8,370 MW - Type of turbine: Francis and Pelton


Largest Hydropower Plant: Grand Coulee Dam

Grand Coulee Dam, United States

The idea of constructing a dam on the Columbia River dates back to the early 20th century. In 1928, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers conducted a survey of the river and identified several potential sites for a dam. One of the sites was located at Grand Coulee, a natural channel through a basalt ridge that had been formed by the Columbia River over millions of years.

The Grand Coulee Dam has an installed capacity of 6,809 MW and is located on the Columbia River in the United States. It was completed in 1942.

United States Bureau of Reclamation - Installed Capacity: 6,809 MW - Type of turbine: Francis


Largest Hydropower Plant: Sayano-Shushenskaya Dam

Sayano-Shushenskaya Dam, Russia

The idea of building a hydroelectric power plant on the Yenisei River was first proposed in the early 20th century. However, it was not until the 1960s that the Soviet government decided to proceed with the construction of the dam. The construction of the Sayano-Shushenskaya Dam began in 1961, and it took 17 years to complete. During this time, more than 26,000 workers were involved in the construction of the dam.

The Sayano-Shushenskaya Dam has an installed capacity of 6,400 MW and is located on the Yenisei River in Russia. It was completed in 1978.

Russia - RusHydro - Installed Capacity: 6,400 MW - Type of turbine: Francis


Largest Hydropower Plant: Longtan Dam,

Longtan Dam, China

The idea of constructing a dam on the Hongshui River dates back to the 1950s when the Chinese government began planning the development of the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. However, the project was postponed several times due to lack of funds and political turmoil. It was not until 1986 that the Chinese government officially approved the construction of the Longtan Dam as part of the country's efforts to increase its energy production and meet its growing electricity demands.

The Longtan Dam has an installed capacity of 6,426 MW and is located on the Hongshui River in China. It was completed in 2009.

China - Power Construction Corporation of China - Installed Capacity: 6,426 MW - Type of turbine: Francis


Largest Hydropower Plant: Krasnoyarsk Dam

Krasnoyarsk Dam, Russia

The Krasnoyarsk Dam is a hydroelectric dam located on the Yenisei River in Russia. It is one of the largest hydroelectric power plants in the world, with a total installed capacity of 6,000 MW. The dam is located in the Krasnoyarsk Krai region of Siberia, about 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) upstream from the city of Krasnoyarsk.

The Krasnoyarsk Dam has an installed capacity of 6,000 MW and is located on the Yenisei River in Russia. It was completed in 1972.

Russia - RusHydro - Installed Capacity: 6,000 MW - Type of turbine: Francis


Largest Hydropower Plant: Pubugou Dam China

Pubugou Dam, China 

Construction of the dam began in 2005 and was completed in 2010. The dam stands at a height of 170 meters and has a crest length of 488 meters. Its reservoir has a capacity of 14.4 billion cubic meters and a surface area of 96.5 square kilometers.

Huaneng Group and CPI - Installed Capacity: 5,400 MW - Type of turbine: Francis


Largest Hydropower Plant: Robert-Bourassa Dam

Robert-Bourassa Dam, Canada 

Construction on the dam began in 1974 and was completed in 1981. It has a height of 162 meters (531 feet) and a length of 2,835 meters (9,301 feet). The reservoir created by the dam, known as the Robert-Bourassa Reservoir, has a surface area of over 2,800 square kilometers (1,080 square miles) and can store up to 61 billion cubic meters (49 million acre-feet) of water.

Hydro-Québec - Installed Capacity: 5,616 MW - Type of turbine: Francis


Largest Hydropower Plant:  Jinping Dam

Jinping-I Dam, China 

Construction of the dam began in 2005, and the first turbine began generating electricity in July 2013. It was officially commissioned in November 2014. The dam is 305 meters high and 1,000 meters long and created a reservoir with a storage capacity of 11.8 billion cubic meters of water.

China Three Gorges Corporation - Installed Capacity: 4,800 MW - Type of turbine: Francis


Largest Hydropower Plant:  Churchill Falls Dam

Churchill Falls Dam, Canada

The Churchill Falls Dam, Hydroelectric Power Plant is a large-scale hydroelectric power generation facility located on the Churchill River in Labrador, Canada. The facility is owned by Churchill Falls (Labrador) Corporation Limited, a subsidiary of Nalcor Energy, a Crown corporation owned by the government of Newfoundland and Labrador.

The Churchill Falls Dam has an installed capacity of 5,428 MW and is located on the Churchill River in Canada. It was completed in 1971.

Canada - Churchill Falls (Labrador) Corporation - Installed Capacity: 5,428 MW - Type of turbine: Francis


Largest Hydropower Plant: Nurek Dam

Nurek Dam, Tajikistan 

The Nurek Dam is a concrete gravity dam that stands at a height of 300 meters (984 feet) and has a crest length of 700 meters (2,297 feet). It forms the Nurek Reservoir, which is the largest reservoir in Tajikistan and has a volume of 10.5 cubic kilometers (8,500,000 acre-feet).

Barki Tojik - Installed Capacity: 3,015 MW - Type of turbine: Francis


Largest Hydropower Plant: Grand Ethiopian Renaissance

Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, Ethiopia

The GERD is controversial due to its potential impact on downstream countries, particularly Egypt and Sudan. These countries are concerned that the dam will reduce the flow of the Nile River, which could negatively affect their agriculture and water supplies. There have been several rounds of negotiations between Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan to try to resolve these concerns, but a final agreement has not yet been reached.

Ethiopian Electric Power - Installed Capacity: 6,450 MW - Type of turbine: Francis


Largest Hydropower Plant: Bratsk Dam

Bratsk Dam, Russia 

The Bratsk Dam is one of the largest hydroelectric power plants in the world, with a capacity of 4,500 MW. It is also one of the oldest and most reliable, having operated continuously for over 50 years. The dam is made of concrete and is 125 meters high and 1,085 meters long. It creates a reservoir, Lake Bratsk, which is 5,470 square kilometers in size and has a maximum depth of 79 meters

Irkutskenergo - Installed Capacity: 4,500 MW - Type of turbine: Francis


Largest Hydropower Plant: Atatürk Dam

Atatürk Dam, Turkey

The dam is a multipurpose project, designed not only for hydroelectric power generation, but also for irrigation and flood control. Its reservoir, the Atatürk Reservoir, has a storage capacity of 48.7 billion cubic meters, making it the largest in Turkey and the third largest in the world by volume. The reservoir covers an area of 817 square kilometers and extends for over 80 kilometers.

State Hydraulic Works - Installed Capacity: 2,400 MW - Type of turbine: Francis


Largest Hydropower Plant: Aswan High Dam

Aswan High Dam, Egypt 

Egyptian Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation - Installed Capacity: 2,100 MW - Type of turbine: Francis

The construction of the Aswan High Dam required the relocation of thousands of people, as well as the flooding of numerous archaeological sites and ancient temples, including Abu Simbel. However, a major benefit of the dam has been the creation of Lake Nasser, one of the largest man-made lakes in the world, which provides recreational opportunities for tourists and locals alike.

Egyptian Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation - Installed Capacity: 2,100 MW - Type of turbine: Francis


Largest Hydropower Plant:  Hoover Dam

Hoover Dam, United States 

The Hoover Dam stands 726 feet (221 meters) tall and 1,244 feet (379 meters) long. It creates Lake Mead, which is the largest reservoir in the United States by volume. The dam generates hydroelectric power and helps control flooding on the Colorado River, which is an important source of water for agriculture and urban areas in the southwestern United States.

Bureau of Reclamation - Installed Capacity: 2,080 MW - Type of turbine: Francis and Pelton


Largest Hydropower Plant: Tarbela Dam

Tarbela Dam, Pakistan 

The dam was completed in 1976 and is one of the largest earth-fill dams in the world. It is about 148 meters high and 2,743 meters long. The dam was constructed to control flooding, provide irrigation water, and generate electricity. It has a storage capacity of 11.62 billion cubic meters of water.

Water and Power Development Authority - Installed Capacity: 4,888 MW - Type of turbine: Francis and Kaplan


largest Hydropower Plant in the World

The Hydropower Plant Technology

Hydropower power plants use a variety of technologies to convert the kinetic energy of falling water into electricity. 

The main components of a typical hydropower plant include:

Dam: A dam is constructed to create a reservoir that stores water. The height and volume of the dam determine the amount of potential energy that can be harnessed from the water.

Intake: The intake structure is located at the base of the dam and controls the amount of water that flows into the penstock.

Penstock: The penstock is a large pipe that carries water from the intake to the turbines. The pressure of the water is increased as it moves through the penstock, which enhances its ability to turn the turbines.

Turbines: The turbines are mounted on a shaft and consist of blades that are turned by the force of the water. The type of turbine used depends on the speed and volume of water available.

Generator: The generator is connected to the turbines and converts the mechanical energy of the turbines into electrical energy.

Transformer: The transformer increases the voltage of the electricity produced by the generator to make it suitable for transmission over power lines.

Control System: The control system manages the operation of the hydropower plant, including the flow of water, speed of the turbines, and amount of electricity generated.

There are several types of hydropower technology, including:

Impulse Turbines: These turbines use the kinetic energy of the water to turn the blades. Impulse turbines are typically used in low head applications.

Reaction Turbines: These turbines use both the kinetic energy and pressure of the water to turn the blades. Reaction turbines are typically used in high head applications.

Pumped Storage: Pumped storage is a hydropower technology that uses excess electricity generated during periods of low demand to pump water from a lower reservoir to a higher reservoir. The water can then be released to generate electricity during periods of high demand.


largest Hydropower Plant in the World

Conclusion for Largest Hydropower Power Plant in The World

Hydropower power plants offer several benefits as a source of renewable energy. They are clean, cost-effective, and have a long lifespan

They also provide water management, flexibility, job creation, and tourism opportunities. 

Hydropower technology has evolved to include a variety of turbines and storage options to maximize efficiency and production. As the world seeks to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels, hydropower has the potential to play an important role in meeting the growing demand for electricity while mitigating the impacts of climate change.

Hydropower is one of the oldest and most reliable sources of renewable energy, and it currently accounts for around 16% of the world's electricity production. There are a variety of hydropower plants in operation, ranging from small-scale systems that power individual homes and businesses to large-scale systems that provide electricity to entire cities and regions.

One of the main challenges facing the hydropower industry is the potential impact on the environment and surrounding ecosystems. The construction of dams can lead to the displacement of local communities and the disruption of natural habitats. However, there are efforts to mitigate these impacts by designing and building more sustainable and eco-friendly hydropower plants.

Another challenge facing the hydropower industry is the increasing competition from other sources of renewable energy, such as wind and solar power. However, hydropower offers certain advantages over these sources, such as its ability to provide base load power and its capacity for energy storage through pumped storage systems.

Hydropower remains an important source of renewable energy that has the potential to contribute significantly to the transition towards a more sustainable and low-carbon energy system.

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