Largest Hydroelectric Power Projects in the World

Largest Hydroelectric Power Projects in the World

Largest Hydroelectric Power Projects in the World

Hydroelectric power, sometimes referred to as hydroelectricity, is dependent on moving water. Water is the largest single renewable energy source responsible for electricity generation in America.

Hydroelectric Plants Explained

In a three-step energy process, hydropower plants capture the kinetic energy of falling water and use it to generate electricity. A simplified explanation step-by-step includes:

  1. Water propels through turbines
  2. The turbine changes the kinetic energy into mechanical energy.
  3. Next, a generator converts mechanical energy into electrical energy. 

Hydroelectric power is produced in 150 countries. In 2015, hydropower was responsible for generating almost seventeen percent of the world’s power. Currently, it’s also responsible for seventy percent of renewable electricity. 

Curious to know about the largest hydroelectric power projects in the world? We’ve listed them below.

largest hydropower plants in the world

10 Largest Hydroelectric Power Projects in the World

Three Gorges, China

Three Gorges is the largest hydroelectric power project in the world because it generates the greatest amount of electricity. It’s located on the four-thousand-mile Yangtze River, the third-longest in the world. Here are some quick facts on Three Gorges:

  • When completed, it cost an estimated 30 billion dollars. The plan will begin showing a profit at the end of a decade.
  • The concrete and steel dam is over a mile long and six thousand feet high. Over five hundred tons of steel were required for its construction, which is enough to build sixty Eiffel Tower structures.
  • Three Gorges has thirty-four generators for hydroelectric power equivalent to fifty million tons of coal or twenty-five million tons of oil.
  • A four-hundred-square-mile reservoir is a flood-prevention structure. It allows large freighters to sail into China’s interior. However, it also resulted in the obliteration of over a hundred towns.
  • Still, the dam generates over 11x as much electrical power as Hoover Dam

Those into visual projection have said that Three Gorges is so big that the first of earth’s inhabitants on the moon will be able to see it from there.

The project took a significant landmass through some of China’s beautiful countryside. Environmentalists have expressed ongoing concerns about the project. Besides the land lost to Three Gorges, over one and a quarter million people were dislocated. Some plants indigenous to the area are now endangered. Overall, Three Gorges is one of the most incredible manmade structures we’ve seen in this generation. 

Itaipu Dam, Brazil, and Paraguay

Second, located on the Parana River between Brazil and Paraguay, the Itaipu Dam hydroelectric power plant generated the most energy of any in the world when it was first completed in 1984. It produced a record-setting 103,098,366 megawatt-hours even surpassing Three Gorges in 2015-2026.  

Itaipu was the collaborative project of Brazil and Paraguay who co-operated it. Itaipu’s twenty generators produce 14 GW of power. Ten were owned by each of the co-operating countries. Most of the power was exported to Brazil on lines about five hundred miles long.

brasil and paraguay hydropower electric plant

Xiluodu Dam, China

Located on the Jinsha River near the town on Xiluodu, the dam straddlesLeibo County of Sichuan Province on the opposite side of the river forming an arch shape. The project begins in late 2005 generates 13,860 MW of power. Xiluodu was opened in 2013. It has eighteen turbines that generate the third-largest power in the world. The dam is 286 meters high and cost over six million US dollars.

Guri Dam, Venezuela

Built-in 1978, also known as the Simon Bolivar Hydroelectric Plant, the Guri Dam is a concrete gravity and embankment dam that stretches 7,426 meters long and 162 meters high. Its generating capacity of 10,235 MW. The Guri Reservoir has an area of 4,250 square miles.

Tucuruí Dam, Brazil

Located on the Tocantins River, Tucurui Dam is the first large-scale hydropower project to be built in the Amazon rainforest. Constructed in 1984, Tucurui has a generating capacity of 8,370 MW. Its name means “grasshopper water”. The twenty-five unit plant took four years to build. A second phase, begun in 1998 was completed in 2010. Tucurui Dam is famous and most recognized because was featured in The Emerald Forest, a 1985 film.

hydroelectric power plant list

Xiangjiaba Dam, China

Third largest hydroelectric power plant was built on the Jinsha, a tributary of the Yangtze River in 2012, Xiangjiaba has a generating capacity of 6,448 MW. The large gravity dam in southwest China has eight turbines, Xiangjiaba Dam is China’s third-largest. It transmits power to Shanghai.

Grand Coulee Dam, United States

Built on the Columbia River back in 1933, this Washington state classic concrete gravity dam with a generating capacity of 6,809 MW is still one of the largest in the world and the largest in the USA. Grand Coulee Dam was completed in 1942. A third powerhouse was added in 1974. The Grand Coulee is currently undergoing major renovations.

largest renewable energy projects in the world

Longtan Dam, China

Located on China’s Hengshui River, the Longtan Dam is the tallest hydroelectric generating plant in the world. Commissioned in 200, it has a generating capacity of 6,426 MW. This concrete gravity dam is over seven hundred feet high and 2,785 feet long. There are seven surface spillways. Longtan has the world’s tallest ship lift system and an underground power station.

Krasnoyarsk Dam, Russia

Constructed between 1985 and1972, Krasnoyarsk is a concrete gravity dam located in the south of Russia. It has a generating capacity of 6,000 MW. Located on the Yenisey River, Krasnoyarsk Dam is 407 feet long. It generates power mainly for the Krasnoyarsky Aluminum Plant.

Robert-Bourassa, Canada

Finally, part of the James Bay Project in the province of Quebec, the Robert Bourassa Plant has a generating capacity of 5,616 MW. Formerly known as La Grande-2 plant, it was renamed for long-standing Quebec Premier, Robert Bourassa, it was commissioned in 1981. Annually the plant generates about 26,500 GWh.

Gracon offers a diverse range of development and construction services for hydroelectric plants. Learn more about our state-of-the-art construction.