The World's Greatest Power Generator Systems

 All of the top power plants in the world are based on hydroelectric principles. The enormous amount of energy that water can produce is amazing, and it’s the principal source used by generations to power entire areas, cities, and nations.

Other energy-producing alternatives are limited, for example, a nuclear plant is limited by the fuel used, and solar plants are limited to the output of the sun and the location of their structures. Power plants are industrial units that are used for the generation of electric power. Sometimes it is also called an energy center because of the work it does.

In short, it converts one form of energy into another. These power plants contain a generator that converts mechanical energy into electrical energy due to the motion of a conductor in a magnetic field. The energy source is used in these power plants of various types such as coal, water, wind, and solar. Here are some of the largest power plants.

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Three Gorges 18,460 MW China

Three Gorges Dam - Yangzi River
Ray Devlin

The dam is located in the areas of Xilingxia gorge, one of the three gorges of the river, which will control a drainage area of 1 million km2, with an average annual runoff of 451 billion m3. It is the world's largest electricity-generating plant of any kind. It has 26 generators each of them producing 700 MW.

Six additional generators in the underground power plant are not expected to become fully operational until 2011. When completed there will be 32 main generators with 2 smaller generators (50 MW each) to power the plant itself, the total electric generating capacity of the dam will eventually reach 22.5 GW.

The dam is made of concrete and is 7,661 ft long, and 607 ft high. The project used 300,000 cu yd of concrete, 463,000 tons of steel and moved about 134,200,000 cu yd of earth. When the water level is at its maximum of 574 ft over sea level, the dam reservoir is about 410 mi in length and 0.70 mi in width on average.

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Tucurui 8,370 MW Brazil

Tucurui Hydroelectric
International Rivers/Flickr/CC by SA 2.0

It is the first large-scale hydroelectric project in the Brazilian Amazon rainforest. The maximum capacity of the 25-unit plant is 8,370 MW. Phase I construction began in 1975 and ended in 1984 while Phase II began in 1998 and is ongoing from delays.

The main portion Tucuruí Dam is a 78 m high and 6.9 km long concrete-gravity dam. The addition of the Mojú and Caraipé earth-fill dikes increases the total length to 12,515 m. The reservoir impounded by the dam has a capacity of 45 km³ with a live volume of 32 km³.

The main dam's Creager-type service spillway is the second largest in the world with a maximum capacity of 110,000 m³/sec. It is controlled by 20 floodgates measuring 20m x 21m. The 405m x 58m Phase I powerhouse is concrete and is fitted with an intake and penstocks. Phase I's powerhouse contains 12 x 330 MW Francis turbine generators. An auxiliary water intake and auxiliary powerhouse also house 2 x 20 MW generators. The dam is designed to support two 210m long and 33m wide navigation locks.

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Itaipu 14,750 MW Brazil/Paraguay

Itaipu hydroelectric power plant seen from top of dam
Ruy Barbosa Pinto Creative/Getty Images

Itaipu is a hydroelectric dam on the Paraná River located on the border between Brazil and Paraguay. The installed generation capacity of the plant is 14 GW, with 20 generating units providing 700 MW each with a hydraulic design head of 118 m.

In 2008 the plant generated a record 94.68 billion kWh, supplying 90% of the energy consumed by Paraguay and 19% of that consumed by Brazil. Composed of 20 generators, ten of them generate at 50 Hz for Paraguay, and the remaining ten generate at 60 Hz for Brazil.

The plant's reservoir began its formation on October 13, 1982, when the dam works were completed and the side canal's gates were closed. The course of the seventh biggest river in the world was shifted, as were 50 million tons of earth and rock.

The amount of concrete used to build the Itaipu Power Plant would be enough to build 210 football stadiums, the steel used would allow for the construction of 380 Eiffel Towers. The total length of the dam is 7235 m. The crest elevation is 225 m. Itaipu is actually four dams joined together — from the far left, an earth-fill dam, a rockfill dam, a concrete main dam, and a concrete wing dam to the right.

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Simon Bolivar (Guri) 10,055 MW Venezuela

Guri Dam
Davidusb/Wikimedia Commons 

The construction started in 1963 concluded the first part in 1978 and the second one in 1986. This imposing engineer work can produce up to ten million kilowatts/hour in two main machine rooms. The plant generates a capacity of 2,065 megawatts (one megawatt ‘MW’ is equal to one million watts), bringing the dam to a maximum level of 215 meters or approximately 650’ feet above sea level.

It has two machine rooms with ten generators each, producing up to ten million kilowatts an hour. The final stage of the Guri Dam was concluded in 1986; this allowed the dam to elevate the water to a maximum level of 272 meters. During this stage, a second power plant was constructed that houses 10 units of 630 MW each. Currently, the Guri Dam, which produces 10,200 MW per day

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Kashiwazaki-Kariwa 8,206 MW Japan

Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Power Generator System Facilities
Phips and Allan Stribs

The Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant is the largest nuclear power plant in the world. This very large power plant is located on a 4.2 km² site in the Niigata Prefecture, Japan on the coast of the Sea of Japan. It is owned and operated by The Tokyo Electric Power Company or TEPCO. This plant, which is the world’s largest nuclear-generating station in the world, was near the epicenter of the strongest earthquake to ever occur at a nuclear plant in 2007. It was completely shut down for 21 months following the earthquake. Two units since 2009 are now operational.