Hydroelectric energy is a renewable energy source that many countries hope can help them power their economic infrastructure, without the harmful carbon emissions and foreign dependence so often associated with the use of fossil fuels. Nonethless, hydroelectric dam construction can cause human displacement and ecological damage on a mass scale, and these factors must be considered before such projects are initiated. Below, we have listed those hydroelectric projects with the largest installed power generation capacities in the world. Each provide jobs and power to large areas surrounding them, not to mention their utility in terms of flood control and irrigating farm systems.
10. Krasnoyarsk, Russia (6.0 GW)
The 6.0 Gigawatt (GW) Krasnoyarsk Hydroelectric Power Plant, built on the Yenisei River in Divnogorsk, Russia, is operated by the JSC Krasnoyarsk HPS. The construction of this plant commenced in 1956 and was completed in 1972. The Krasnoyarsk Dam is 124 meters in height and 1,065 meters in length. A well-equipped power plant, the Krasnoyarsk facility is equipped with a total 12 Francis generating units .
9. Sayanogorsk Hydro Power Plant, Russia (6.4 GW)
Sayanogorsk Hydro Power Plant, or the Sayano–Shushenskaya Dam, is the largest hydroelectric power plant in the world. The plant is located on the Yenisei River near Sayanogorsk in Khakassia, Russia. The construction of the plant began in 1968, and it was opened a decade later in 1978. The plant was shut down after an accident on the 17th of August, 2009, which caused a huge loss of life and property. However, after sufficient rebuilding, the plant was again restarted at a later date. Currently, the Sayanogorsk Hydro Power Plant can generate 6.4 GW of hydroelectric power.
8. Longtan, China (6.43 GW)
This hydroelectric power station on the Longtan Dam in China is capable of generating 6.43 GW of hydroelectric power. The Longtan Dam, which is 216.2 meters high and 849 meters long, is located on the Hongshui River in Tian’e County within the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region of China. The project involved with building this dam was first conceived in the 1950s. However, formal construction was not started until July 1st, 2001. The three hydroelectric units were set up at a later date, with the most recently installed generator becoming operational in 2009.
7. Xiangjiaba Dam, China (6.45 GW)
Located between the Shuifu County of Yunnan Province and Yibin County of Sichuan Province in China, the Xiangjiaba hydro power plant is the third largest hydroelectric power plant in the country, and the seventh largest in the world. This establishment of this 6.45 GW capacity plant was initiated in November of 2006. Besides power generation, the other purposes provoking the construction of the 161-meter high and 909-meter long Xiangjiaba Dam on the Jinsha River included to provide flood control, improve agricultural irrigation systems, and facilitate riverine ship navigation in the region.
6. Grand Coulee Dam, WA, USA (6.81 GW)
The 24 generators on the Grand Coulee Dam, built over the Columbia River in the U.S. state of Washington state, can generate up to 6.81 GW of hydroelectric power. This is responsible for the majority of the electric power supply to the surrounding region in the U.S. Pacific Northwest. Besides generating power, the water from the dam also irrigates over half a million acres of land in the Columbia Basin, and also facilitates flood control in the same area.
5. Tucurui Dam, Brazil (8.37 GW)
The Tucurui Dam Hydroelectric Power Project was the first of its kind to be built within the Brazilian Amazon Rainforest. The Tucurui Dam is a large concrete gravity dam constructed on the Tocantins River in the Brazilian state of Pará. The installed capacity of this project reaches up to 8.37 GW of electricity generation. The construction of the Tucurui Dam in Brazil has led to both positive and negative impacts in the region resulting from its operation there. Though the hydroelectric power plant brought power to around 13 million people, and has fueled the growth of industries throughout the region, it also led to displacement of a large number of locals from the area where the dam was built. A mass scale immigration of workers from other regions has also occurred, leading to widespread deforestation and loss of biodiversity in the area due to commercial, industrial, and residential development to support these newcomers and their respective livelihoods.
4. Guri Dam, Venezuela (10.2 GW)
The Guri Dam has been constructed on the Caroní River, in the state of Bolívar in eastern Venezuela. The first phase of this large scale project, part of Venezeula's and larger associated Hydroelectric Project, was completed in 1969. The second stage began in 1976, and the project was finally completed in 1986. Today, the Guri Dam’s hydroelectric power generators have a massive installed capacity, capable of generating 10.2 GW of electricity.
3. Xiluodu Dam, China (13.9 GW)
In addition to the primary function of generating hydroelectric power, the Xiluodu Dam also performs the tasks of silt detention, flood control, and irrigation for the area surrounding it. The dam is located in China's Jinsha River Valley, between the counties of Leibo and Yongshan, in Sichuan and Yunnan provinces, respectively. The Xiluodu Dam has a height of 278 meters and a length of 698.07 meters. There are also underground hydroelectric power generating plants, located on both banks of the dam, which are equipped with a total of 9 hydroelectric power generating units with a combined capacity of 13.9 GW of electrical power production.
2. Itaipu, Brazil/Paraguay (14.0 GW)
Situated on the border between Brazil and Paraguay on the Paraná River is the Itaipu Dam, the second largest hydroelectric power plant in the world. This is a binational project that was initiated by both Brazil and Paraguay. Itaipu has a power generation capacity of 14.0 GW contributed to by 20 power generating units, each with a capacity of 700 MW. Astonishingly, in 2013, the Itaipu plant supplied almost 75% of the electricity consumed by Paraguay, and 17% of that consumed by Brazil.
1. Three Gorges, China (22.5 GW)
A massive dam across the Yangtze was a dream in China since the turn of the 20th Century, though not fully realized until almost a century later in the form of Three Gorges Dam in Hubei Province, though smaller dams along the Yangtze were built in the meantime. In fact, Mao Zedong, architect of China's Great leap Forward and Cultural Revolution, wrote a poem that is said to have inspired the Three Gorges' construction. Ultimately, the Three Gorges Dam Project saw the completion of the largest hydroelectric plant in the world. The project is comprised by three primary components, namely the Three Gorges Dam, its hydroelectric power generating facility, and a system of locks in the dammed up waters behind it. The entire project is located proximate to Sandouping Town in China's Yichang City region. The Three Gorges Dam dominates the area below at 2,300 meters in height, and stretches across a length spanning 115 meters. The project has a capacity to produce 22.5 GW of hydroelectrically generated energy. The 386 square miles of area comprising the dam’s reservoir also serves a picturesque spot which draws thousands of tourists to this location annually.