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Hydroelectricity is one of the fore-runners of the renewable energy industry, accounting for over 16% of global electricity production, with a predicted annual increase in production of 3.1%. China is the current global leader in hydroelectric production with four dams on the top ten list, with total hydroelectric production accounting for 17% of domestic electricity use. Hydroelectricity represents an attractive option in the renewable energy market given its relatively low cost, flexibility in terms of production relative to demand and lower output levels of greenhouse gas when compared with fossil fuel energy plants.
La Grande, Canada
This plant is part of Quebec’s James Bay Project and has a generating capacity of 5,616 MW. The dam is named after Premier of Quebec Robert Bourassa and was originally commissioned in 1981.
Yenisei River, Russia
This dam originally came online in 1972 and has been operating ever since. It’s located in Southern Russia and has a generating capacity of 6,000 MW.
8. Longtan Dam
Hongshui River, China
The Longtan Dam is the tallest of its type in the world and has a generating capacity of 6,426 MW. It’s relatively new, as it was only commissioned in 2007.
7. Grand Coulee
Columbia River, United States
Washington State’s Grand Coulee dam is a classic. It’s been around since 1933 and remains one of the biggest in the world. It has a generating capacity of 6,809 MW and is currently undergoing major overhauls.
Jinsha River, China
This dam operates on a tributary of the Yangtze River and has a generating capacity of 6,400 MW. This dam is also very new, beginning operations in 2012.
Tocantins River, Brazil
This dam was the first large-scale hydro power project in the Amazon rainforest. It was commissioned in 1984 and has a generating capacity of 8,370 MW.
Caroní River, Venezuela
The Guri Dam is huge. It is 7,426 meters long and 162 meters high. It’s also quite old, as it was commissioned in 1978. It currently has a generating capacity of 10,235 MW.
Jinsha River, China
This dam has a generating capacity of 13,860 and also provides flood control for the region. It’s brand new, as it was only commissioned in 2013, and is operated by China Yangtze Power.
2. Itaipu Dam
Paraná River, Brazil/Paraguay
This dam occasionally has a higher generating output than the number one spot. With 14 GW of installed capacity it’s quite impressive. It also straddles the line between two countries, making initial negotiations difficult.
1. Three Gorges Dam
Yangtze River, China
Here it is: the big one. With a massive generating capacity of 22.5 GW, the Three Gorges Dam is the biggest hydro dam in the world. China had begun dreaming up this dam in 1919, and in 2008, it came alive. It’s a beast of a hydro dam and is a marvel of modern engineering.
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