World’s 10 Largest Hydropower: Top 10 Plants
Hydroelectric power is by far the first renewable source in the world. According to the latest report from the International Hydropower Association (IHA), installed hydropower capacity increased by 1.6 percent to 1,330 gigawatts (GW) in 2020, the year in which the sector generated a record 4,370 terawatt hours ( TWh) of clean electricity, up from the previous record of 4,306 TWh reached in 2019. This is roughly equivalent to all of the United States’ annual electricity consumption.
During 2020, hydropower projects totaling 21 GW came online, up from 15.6 GW in 2019. Nearly two-thirds of this growth came from China, which saw 13.8 GW of new capacity. Among other countries that added new capacity, only Turkey (2.5 GW) contributed more than 1 GW.
Major projects completed last year include the 2.1 GW Lauca facility in Angola, the 1.8 GW Jixi pumped-storage facility in China, and the Ilisu (1.2 GW) and Lower Kaleköy (0.5 GW) projects. GW) in Turkey. The largest project was Wudongde in China, which brought eight of its 12 units online, adding 6.8 GW to the Chinese grid. The rest have entered in June 2021.
China remains the world leader with respect to the total installed capacity of hydropower with more than 370 GW. Brazil (109 GW), the US (102 GW), Canada (82 GW) and India (50 GW) make up the rest of the top five. Japan and Russia are just behind India, followed by Norway (33 GW) and Turkey (31 GW). Spain, with 20.4 GW, ranks twelfth in the world.
With the commissioning of the Baihetan and Wudongde hydroelectric plants, China has just changed the Top 10 of the world hydroelectric sector, which dominates with five plants among the 10 largest in the world. Here are the big 10:
1. Three Gorges hydroelectric power station. 22,500 MW. China
The Chinese Three Gorges hydroelectric plant has an installed capacity of 22,500 MW. It is located in Yichang, Hubei province, and is the largest in the world. It is a conventional reservoir hydroelectric facility that uses water from the Yangtze River, owned by the Chinese Three Gorges Corporation through its subsidiary China Yangtze Power, which also operates the plant.
The construction of the project required an investment of 18,000 million euros. This colossal engineering work was started in 1993 and was completed in 2012. The dam is 181 meters high and 2,335 meters long, it was carried out as part of the Three Gorges project, linked to the hydroelectric power station made up of 32 turbines of 700 MW each, and two generating units of 50 MW. At present, the plant’s annual power output just set the world record in 2014 with 98.8 TWh, enabling it to supply electricity to nine provinces and two cities, including Shanghai.
2. Baihetan Hydropower Station. 16,000MW. China
The Baihetan hydroelectric plant, with its 16,000 megawatts will be, in terms of total installed capacity, the second largest in the world after the Three Gorges Dam, also Chinese. The plant is located on the Jinsha River, one of the main tributaries of the Yangtze River, and stretches between the provinces of Yunnan and Sichuan (in the south and center, respectively).
Baihetan, 289 meters high and 709 meters long, will be equipped with 16 hydro-generating units, each with a capacity of one million kilowatts, which will also make it the hydroelectric power station with the largest capacity per unit in the world, according to Xinhua.
The plant has just put the first two units into operation and the rest will be operational in July 2022, reports the source, and will generate an average of more than 62.4 billion kilowatt hours of electricity per year.
The authorities’ intention is for the plant to save around 19.68 million tons of coal and reduce annual carbon dioxide emissions by 51.6 million tons, sulfur dioxide emissions by 170,000 tons, and carbon dioxide emissions. nitrogen in 150,000 tons.
The works also seek to facilitate transportation and prevent flooding in the Yangtze, the largest river in Asia and the third largest in the world with 6,300 kilometers and an average annual flow of 31,900 cubic meters per second.
The installed hydropower capacity in China stands at 361 million kilowatts, making a great contribution to the country’s goal of investing in clean energy.
The cost of the project will be about 34,000 million dollars (28,470 million euros), according to the Three Gorges Corporation, the construction company.
3. Itaipu hydroelectric plant. 14,000MW. Paraguay-Brazil
The Itaipu hydroelectric plant, with an installed capacity of 14,000 MW, ranks as the second largest in the world. The facility, operated by the Itaipu Binacional company, is located on the Paraná River, on the border between Brazil and Paraguay. The investment made in the construction of the plant was 15,000 million euros. Construction began in 1975 and was completed in 1982. Engineers from the US-based consortium of IECO and Italy-based ELC Electroconsult carried out the construction, starting power production from the plant in May 1984.
The Itaipu hydroelectric plant supplies around 17.3% of Brazil’s energy consumption and 72.5% of the energy consumed in Paraguay. Specifically, it consists of 20 generating units with a capacity of 700 MW each, having managed to achieve a production in 2014 practically equal to that of Three Gorges, reaching 98.5 TWh, which makes it practically the world leader in generation of energy, even if it is not by installed power.
4. Xiluodu Hydropower Station. 13,860 MW. China
The Xiluodu Hydroelectric Power Station located on the Jinsha River, a tributary of the upper Yangtze River, in the center of Sichuan Province, is the second largest power station in China and the third largest in the world. The installed capacity of the plant reached 13,860 MW at the end of 2014 when the last two generation turbines were installed. The project was developed by the Three Gorges Project Corporation and is expected to generate 64 TWh of electricity per year when fully operational.
The project required an investment of 5,500 million euros and construction began in 2005, with the first turbines commissioning in July 2013. The plant consists of a double curvature arch dam with a height of 285.5 meters and a width of 700 meters, creating a reservoir with a storage capacity of 12,670 million cubic meters. The facility’s equipment, supplied by Voith engineers, consists of 18 Francis turbine generators with a capacity of 770 MW each and one air-cooled generator with 855.6 MVA output. The plant is operated by China Yangtze Power and is currently the second largest power plant in China and the third largest in the world.
5. Belo Monte hydroelectric plant. 11,233 MW. Brazil
The Belo Monte Dam (formerly known as Kararaô) is a complex of hydroelectric dams on the northern part of the Xingu River in the state of Pará, Brazil. After its completion, with the installation of its 18 turbines, in November 2019, the installed capacity of the dam complex is 11,233 megawatts (MW), making it the second largest hydroelectric dam complex in Brazil and the fifth largest largest in the world by installed capacity. Considering the oscillations of the river flow, the guaranteed minimum capacity generation of the Belo Monte Dam would measure 4,571 MW, 39% of its maximum capacity. 
In Brazil, hydroelectric plants produce more than 85% of electrical energy. The Government has decided to build new hydroelectric dams to ensure national energy security.
Plans for the dam began in 1975, but were soon shelved due to controversy. It was not until August 26, 2010, when a contract was signed with Norte Energia for the construction of the dam once the Brazilian Institute for the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA) had issued the installation license. A partial installation license was granted on January 26, 2011, and a full license to build the dam was issued on June 1, 2011. The licensing process and construction of the dam has been bogged down in federal court battles; the current ruling is that construction is allowed, because the license is based on five different environmental technical reports  and according to the RIMA (Environmental Impact Report, EIA-RIMA) study for Belo Monte.
The first turbines came online on May 5, 2016. As of October 2019, all turbines at Pimental and 17 turbines at the main power plant are online with a total installed capacity of 10,388.87 MW at the Belo site. Monte, totaling 10,621.97 with the Pimental site. The power plant was completed in November 2019.
6. Guri hydroelectric power station. 10,235 MW. Venezuela
The Guri plant, also known as the Simón Bolívar hydroelectric plant, is positioned as the third largest in the world with an installed capacity of 10,235 MW. The facilities are located on the Caroní River, located in the southeast of Venezuela, with Electrificación del Caroní CA (EDELCA) being the owner and operator of the plant.
The construction of the project began in 1963 and was carried out in two phases, the first was completed in 1978 and the second in 1986. The plant consists of 20 generation units of different capacities ranging from 130 MW to 770 MW. The Alstom company was selected through two contracts in 2007 and 2009 for the renovation of four 400 MW units and five of 630 MW, with Andritz also receiving a contract to supply five 770MW Francis turbines in 2007. After the renovations in the equipment of generation, the Guri plant reached an electricity supply of more than 12,900 GW/h.
7. Wudongde Hydropower Station. 10,200 MW. China
The Wudongde Hydropower Station was officially put into operation last June, becoming the seventh largest hydropower station in the world with the largest unit capacity in operation.
The project has been developed by the Jinsha River Yunchuan Hydropower Development Company , in which China Three Gorges Corporation (CTG) has a 70% stake, while Sichuan and Yunnan provinces have 15% stakes each.
The power plant has a capacity of 10,200 MW, and the annual production rate will reach 38.91 TWh once the hydropower is fully operational, which is equivalent to saving 12.20 million tons of standard coal and reducing 30, 50 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year.
Wudongde Hydropower Station is designed as a double curvature arch concrete dam with a maximum height of 270 meters. The foundation bed of the dam is only 51.41 meters thick, making the hydropower plant the thinnest 300-meter arch dam in the world today.
The Wudongde Hydropower Station sits on the Jinsha River, on the upper reaches of the Yangtze River, and lies between southwest China’s Yunnan Province and Sichuan Province.
Wudongde Station, along with Baihetan Hydropower Station, Xiluodu Hydropower Station, and Xiangjiaba Hydropower Station, will form a cascade of power stations on the Jinsha River. The cluster will have an installed capacity of 46.46 GW, which is equivalent to twice the output of the Three Gorges Dam in the middle reaches of the Yangtze, and will generate around 190 TWh of electricity per year.
8. Tucuruí hydroelectric plant. 8,370 MW. Brazil
The Tucuruí Hydroelectric Complex located in the lower part of the Tocantins River, in Tucuruí, belonging to the State of Pará in Brazil, ranks as the fourth largest hydroelectric plant in the world with its 8,370 MW. The construction of the project, which required an investment of 4,000 million euros, began in 1975, completing the first phase in 1984, consisting of a concrete gravity dam 78 meters high and 12,500 meters long, 12 generating units with a capacity of 330MW each and two auxiliary units of 25 MW.
The construction of the second phase added a new power plant that was started in 1998 and completed at the end of 2010, in which the installation of 11 generation units with a capacity of 370 MW each was carried out. Engineers from a consortium made up of Alstom, GE Hydro, Inepar-Fem and Odebrecht supplied the equipment for this phase. Currently, the plant supplies electricity to the city of Belém and the surrounding area.
9. Grand Coulee hydroelectric power station. 6,809 MW. USA
The 6,809 MW Grand Coulee hydroelectric plant located on the Columbia River in Washington, USA, is currently the fifth largest hydroelectric plant in the world. The plant, built in three phases, has been owned by the US Bureau of Reclamation since it began operating in 1941, reaching an annual generation capacity of more than 24 TWh.
The Grand Coulee hydroelectric power station, construction began in 1933, consists of three power plants and a concrete gravity dam 168 meters high and 1,592 meters long. Two of its plants consist of a total of 18 125 MW Francis turbines and three additional 10 MW units, operational since 1950. Construction of the third plant began in 1967, completing the final process of implementing its six units between 1975 and 1980, made up of three 805 MW turbines and another three of 600 MW.
The renovation of the three 805 MW units of the third plant began in 2013 and is expected to be completed in September 2017, while the upgrade of the other three 600 MW units will not begin until 2018.
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10. Xiangjiaba Hydropower Station. 6,448 MW. China
The Xiangjiaba Hydropower Station is the last step of cascading development downstream of the main stream of the Jinsha River, with Yibin County on the left bank and Shuifu County on the right bank. It is located 33 km upstream from Yibin City, 2.5 km from Shuifu County.
The dam is concrete gravity, which has a crest elevation of 384 meters, a maximum height of 162 meters and a crest length of 896.26 meters. The facility has eight Francis turbines, four with a capacity of 812 MW and four with a nominal capacity of 800 MW, totaling an installed capacity of 6,448 MW and an annual energy generation of 30.7 TWh.
Xiangjiaba Hydropower Station has a normal storage level of 380 meters and a dead reserve level of 370 meters. The reservoir is of the partial temporary regulation type with a total storage capacity of 5,163 million cubic meters and a regulation capacity of 903 million cubic meters. Its preparatory work began in March 2004, but the official start of works was in November 2006. The first group of generating turbines was put into operation in 2012, and the project has been completed in 2015, with a construction period 9 years and 6 months. The investment made in the project has been about 6,000 million.