The 10 biggest hydroelectric power plants in the world

Hydropower is one of the oldest and most widely-used renewable sources of energy. China, the world's largest producer of hydroelectricity, operates two of the 10 biggest hydroelectric power plants in the world, including the world's largest Three Gorges project. profiles the world's ten biggest hydroelectric power production facilities based on installed capacity.

The 10 biggest hydroelectric power plants in the world

Three Gorges, China

The 22,500MW Three Gorges hydroelectric power plant in Yichang, Hubei province, China, is the largest hydropower station in the world. It is a conventional impoundment hydropower facility exploiting the water resource of the Yangtze River. The project is owned and operated by China Three Gorges Corporation through its subsidiary China Yangtze Power.

Construction of the CNY203bn ($29bn) power project was started in 1993 and completed in 2012. A 181m tall and 2,335m long gravity dam was built as part of the Three Gorges project. The power plant consists of 32 turbine / generator units rated 700MW each, and two 50MW power generators. Six foreign groups were involved in the supply of equipment for the project, including Alstom, which supplied 14 Francis turbine units.

The generating units of the Three Gorges power station were commissioned between 2003 and 2012. Annual power output of the plant is estimated at 85TWh. The generated power is supplied to nine provinces and two cities, including Shanghai.

Itaipu, Brazil & Paraguay

The Itaipu hydroelectric power plant with an installed capacity of 14,000MW ranks as the world's second largest hydropower plant. The project is located on the Parana River, at the border between Brazil and Paraguay. The facility is operated by Itaipu Binacional.

Construction of the $19.6bn plant began in 1975 and was completed in 1982. A consortium of US-based IECO and Italy-based ELC Electroconsult carried out the construction. Power production at Itaipu started in May 1984.

The Itaipu hydro-electric facility supplies about 17.3% of Brazil's energy consumption and 72.5% of the energy consumed in Paraguay. It consists of 20 generating units with a capacity of 700MW each. It produced 98.2TWh in 2012, which made it the biggest generating hydropower plant in the world.

Guri, Venezuela

The Guri power project, also known as the Simón Bolívar hydroelectric power station, ranks as the world's third biggest hydroelectric power station, with an installed capacity of 10,200MW. The Venezuelan power facility is located on the Caroni River in the Bolívar State of southeastern Venezuela. CVG Electrification del Caroni owns and operates the plant.

Construction of the power project started in 1963. It was carried out in two phases, with the first phase completed in 1978 and the second phase in 1986. The power plant consists of 20 generating units of different capacities ranging between 130MW and 770MW.

Alstom was awarded two contracts in 2007 and 2009 to refurbish four 400MW units and five 630MW respectively. Andritz received a contract to supply five 770MW Francis turbines for the powerhouse II of Guri in 2007. The Guri power station supplies around 12,900GW/h of energy for Venezuela.

Tucuruí, Brazil

The Tucuruí Hydropower Complex situated on the lower Tocantins River in Tucuruí, Pará, Brazil, ranks as fourth largest hydroelectric power plant in the world. The 8,370MW power plant was built in two phases and has been producing since 1984.

Construction of the $5.5bn Tucuruí hydropower project started in 1975. The first phase was completed in 1984. It involved construction of a concrete gravity dam 78m in height and 12,500m in length, 12 generating units with a capacity of 330MW each and two 25MW auxiliary units.

Construction of the second phase to add a new powerhouse was started in 1998 and completed in late 2010. It involved installation of 11 generating units with 370MW capacity each. A consortium of Alstom, GE Hydro, Inepar-Fem and Odebrecht supplied the equipments for this phase. The power station delivers electricity to the Belém town and the surrounding area.

Grand Coulee, United States of America

The 6,809MW Grand Coulee hydropower project located on the Columbia River in Washington, US, is currently the world's fifth biggest hydroelectric power station. The project, built in three phases, is owned and operated by the US Bureau of Reclamation. The power facility commenced operation in 1941. The annual generating capacity of the plant is more than 24TWh.

The Grand Coulee hydro-power station consists of three power plants and a concrete gravity dam 168m high and 1,592m in length. Construction was started in 1933. The left and right power houses, consisting of total 18 Francis turbines rated 125MW and three 10MW additional units, were operational by 1950.

The third power plant consists of three 805MW units and three 600MW units. Construction of the third power plant began in 1967 and the six units of the plant were commissioned between 1975 and 1980. The overhaul of three 805MW units at the third station began in 2013 and is expected to be completed in September 2017. The overhaul of the rest three 600MW units is set to start in 2018.

Sayano-Shushenskaya, Russia

The Sayano-Shushenskaya hydropower plant located on the Yenisei River in Sayanogorsk, Khakassia, Russia, ranks as sixth biggest hydroelectric power station in the world. The power facility, operated by RusHydro, has an installed capacity of 6,400MW.

Construction of the power station started in 1963 and was completed in 1978. An arch-gravity dam 242m in height and 1,066m in length was constructed as part of the project. The power plant consists of 10 Francis generating units with a capacity of 640MW each. It generates 23.5TWh of energy annually, of which 70% is delivered to four aluminum smelters in Siberia.

The plant was shut down in 2009 following an accident which caused damage to nine to 10 turbines. It was reopened in 2010. Ten new units with 96.6% efficiency are planned to be installed at the plant. The upgrades are estimated to cost $1.4bn.

Longtan, China

The Longtan hydropower project located on the Hongshui River in Tian'e County, Guangxi, China, is the seventh largest hydroelectric facility in the world and sixth biggest in Asia. The installed capacity of the plant is 6,300MW.

The hydroelectric power station consists of nine Francis 700MW generating units. The Longtan dam is a roller-compacted concrete gravity dam 216.5m in height and 832m in width. The power station is owned and operated by Longtan Hydropower Development. The power project was designed by Hydrochina Zhongnan Engineering and built by Sinohydro.

Construction of the Longtan hydropower project started in May 2007. The first generating unit was commissioned in May 2007. The project became fully operational in 2009. The turbine generators for the plant were supplied by Voith, Dongfang, Harbin and Tianjin. The annual generating capacity is estimated at 18.7TWh.

Krasnoyarsk, Russia

The Krasnoyarsk Hydroelectric Power Plant located on the Yenisei River in Divnogorsk, Russia, is currently the eighth largest hydroelectric power station in the world. The 6,000MW power facility is operated by JSC Krasnoyarsk HPS.

Construction of the power project started in 1956 and was completed in 1972. Krasnoyarsk Dam is a 124m high and 1,065m long concrete gravity dam. The power plant comprises of 12 Francis generating units with a capacity of 500MW each.

Turbines and generators for the plant were supplied by Leningradsky Metallichesky Zavod (LMZ) and Electrosila. Gidroenergoproek was the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contractor. The power station's annual generating capacity is 18.4TWh.

Robert-Bourassa, Canada

The 5,616MW Robert-Bourassa generating station located on the La Grande River in northern Quebec, Canada, ranks as the world's ninth largest hydroelectric power plant. The power station is owned and operated by Hydro-Québec.

Construction of the C$3.8bn power project started in 1974. It involved construction of an embankment dam 162m in height and 2835m in length. The generating station comprises of two power plants installed with total 16 Francis turbines rated at 351MW each. The generating units were commissioned between 1979 and 1981.

A major rehabilitation project is underway at the Robert-Bourassa generating station since 2012 to improve its operational reliability energy performance. It is expected to be completed in 2020. Alstom was awarded a contract in January 2012 to upgrade the power station's efficiency as part of the rehabilitation project.

Churchill Falls, Canada

The 5,428MW Churchill Falls Generating Station located on the Churchill River in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, ranks as tenth largest hydroelectric power plant in the world. The power project is owned by Churchill Falls Labrador Corporation and operated by Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro, a subsidiary of Nalcor Energy.

Construction of the $C946m hydropower station started in 1967. The project did not involve construction of any large dam. The water reservoir is, rather, contained in 88 rock-filled dikes. The underground power house consists of 11 Francis turbines rated at 493.5MW each.

The generating units of the hydroelectric power station were commissioned between 1971 and 1974. The annual generating capacity of the power plant is 35,000GWh. It is one of the largest power facilities in North America.

NRI Energy Technology

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