Top 21 Dams In the World That Generate the Highest Amount of Electricity

Hydroelectric power stations have been generating electricity for decades. Here are some of the most effective dams worldwide.
Saoirse Kerrigan
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We've been using dams to generate hydroelectric energy for decades. Over time, the capabilities of hydroelectric power stations have continued to grow and improve, resulting in some seriously impressive levels of electricity generation.

Naturally, not all dams are created equal, and some dams are far more effective than others when it comes to generating power. Here are some of the most impressive dams worldwide, which generate the highest amounts of electricity.

1. The Three Gorges Dam: Becoming the Number One Dam Worldwide

Back in 2012, the Three Gorges Dam in Hubei, China, became the largest hydroelectric dam in the world in terms of electricity production. The enormous facility can generate as much as 22,500 megawatts.

The cost to build this dam was estimated to be around $37 billion, and it can generate 11 times as much power as the Hoover Dam. Most surprising of all, is that the dam is actually capable of slowing the Earth's rotation, thanks to the overwhelming mass of its reservoir.

Source: Rehman/Wikimedia Commons

2. Itaipu Dam: Taking Second Place for Power Generation

Before the unveiling of the Three Gorges Dam, the Itaipu Dam held the number one spot worldwide. Located on the Brazil-Paraguay border, the facility has the capacity to generate 14,000 megawatts.

The dam officially opened in 1984, and since then has hit multiple world records. Most notable of these was in 2016 when the facility generated 103,098,366 megawatt hours, which remains the current world record.

Source: Ogwen/Wikimedia Commons

3. Xiluodu Dam: Claiming the Number Two Spot in China

The Xiluodu Dam is the second largest hydroelectric facility in China, after the Three Gorges Dam. Located on the Jinsha river, in the Yunnan province, the dam can generate 13,860 megawatts.

Worldwide, it's the third largest hydroelectric facility in terms of electricity generation. It is also the fourth tallest dam in the world, measuring at a height of 937 feet (285.5 meters).


4. Guri Dam: Powering Venezuela With Clean Energy

Also known as the Simón Bolívar dam, the Guri Dam is located in Bolívar state, Venezuela. Construction began in 1963, and its initial capacity measured 1750 megawatts. By 1978, the dam was updated to facilitate a capacity of 2065 megawatts.

Today, the dam can generate up to 10,300 megawatts. The Guri reservoir is the largest body of fresh water in Venezuela, and the plant supplies as much as 73% of the country's power.

Source: Warairarepano&Guaicaipuro/Wikimedia Commons

5. Tucuruí Dam: Building the First Hydroelectric Project in the Amazon

Brazil's Tucuruí Dam was the first large-scale hyrdroelectric project to be built in the Amazon forest. Construction began in 1975, and the dam was declared officially completed in 2012. 

The dam can generate as much as 8,370 megawatts of electricity and brought power to 13 million people. It is the country's biggest hydroelectric plant owned and operated 100% by Brazil.

Source: Repórter de Futuro/Wikimedia Commons

6.  Xiangjiaba Dam: Becoming the Third Most Powerful Dam in China

Trailing behind the Three Gorges Dam and the Xiloudu Dam is Xiangjiaba, China's third most powerful dam and one of the most powerful dams in the world. Located between the Yunnan and Sichuan provinces, the dam can generate as much as 6,448 megawatts.

The Xiangjiaba station is connected to the Xiangjiaba-Shanghai HVDC station, which provides Shanghai with most of its power. Construction began in 2006 and it was officially opened in 2012.


7. Grand Coulee Dam: Creating One of the Seven Civil Engineering Wonders of the U.S.A.

The Grand Coulee Dam, located in Washington state, is not only one of North America's most powerful dams but also one of the seven civil engineering wonders of the United States. The enormous structure is comprised of 12 million cubic yards of concrete.

Built in 1942, the dam can generate 6,809 megawatts, making it the most powerful dam in the United States. Its creation allowed for the generation of electricity needed to produce aluminum during the second World War.

Source: Gregg M. Erickson/Wikimedia Commons

8. Longtan Dam: Improving Navigation in China

China clearly has something of a monopoly on super-powerful dams. With a capacity of 6,426 megawatts, the Longtan Dam in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region is among the top ten most powerful dams in the world.

Its electricity generation isn't the only thing that sets it apart, though. Longtam Dam is also set to improve navigation and trade routes throughout China, thanks to the Longtam ship lift, which looks set to become the biggest ship lift in the world.


9. Krasnoyarsk Dam: Appearing on Russian Bank Notes

The Krasnoyarsk Dam in Divognorsk, Russia is considered such an important landmark that it appears on the 10-ruble banknote. The massive structure was considered to be the most powerful dam in the world in 1971 but was later surpassed by the Grand Coulee Dam in America.

Today, it is ranked among the top ten most powerful dams in the world, with a capacity of 6,000 megawatts. The dam has actually affected the region's climate, thanks to the fact that it releases unfrozen water year-round, preventing the river from freezing over in the Winter.

Source: Ninara/Wikimedia Commons

10. Robert-Bourassa Dam: Building the World's Largest Underground Generating Station

Part of the James Bay Project in Quebec, Canada, the Robert-Bourassa Dam is one of the most powerful dams in the world and is situated atop the world's largest underground generating station. The dam has a capacity of 5,616 megawatts, and along with the adjacent La Grande 2-A generating station accounts for 20% of Hydro-Quebec's output.

Construction on the dam began in 1974, and it was officially opened in 1981. Today, it is a tourist attraction, with visitors coming to enjoy the surrounding nature and the Robert-Bourassa reservoir.

Source: FargomeD/Wikimedia Commons

11. The Hoover Dam: Remaining One of the World's Most Famous Dams

The Hoover Dam in Nevada, U.S.A. is one of the most famous and easily recognizable dams in the world. The site is both a popular tourist attraction and a marvel of 20th Century engineering.

The dam has a capacity of 2,080 megawatts. Its yield has been decreasing over the years, however, because of falling water levels in Lake Mead as a result of prolonged drought, and the growing demand for water taken from the Colorado river.

Source: Mariordo/Wikimedia Commons

12. The Kariba Dam: Saving the World's Largest Man-Made Dam

Though the Kariba Dam is one of Africa's most powerful dams, in recent years it has become the subject of much controversy and difficulties. The dam, which is located between Zimbabwe and Zambia, is the largest man-made dam at 420 feet (128 meters) tall and 1,900 feet (579 meters) long.

It has a capacity of 1,626 megawatts but is currently in the process of being expanded to yield a greater amount of energy. Sadly, the structural integrity of the dam has been called into question, and major restoration works have been in progress since 2016.

Source: Rhys Jones/Wikimedia Commons

13. Merowe Dam: Channelling the Power of the Nile

Sudan's Merowe Dam is the largest contemporary hydroelectric plant in Africa and is located on the Nile's 4th cataract. The dam has a capacity of 1,250 megawatts.

Plans for building a dam on the 4th cataract date back to the mid-1950s, but it wasn't until 2009 when Merowe Dam was officially inaugurated. The majority of the project was funded by both the China Import-Export Bank and the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development. 

Source: Sudani/Wikimedia Commons

14. Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam: Working to Become Africa's Largest Hydroelectric Plant

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam may still be under construction, but the ambitious project is set to become Africa's largest hydroelectric plant. Upon completion, the estimated capacity will be 6,450 megawatts.

This estimated power yield would also place the dam as the 7th largest in the world, once completed. Though construction is nearing completion, the reservoir itself will take an additional 5-15 years to fill.


15. Bratsk Dam: Remembering One of the World's Former Largest Single Electricity Providers

Between the years 1967 and 1971, the Bratsk Dam in Bratsk, Russia, was the world's largest single electricity provider. Today, it continues to be one of the most powerful dams in the world, with a capacity of 4,515 megawatts.

The dam remains a relic of Soviet engineering, and its reservoir was the largest artificial lake at the time of its inauguration.

Source: Michael Fludkov/Wikimedia Commons

16. Daniel-Johnson Dam: Spotting a Reservoir From Space

Formerly known as Manic-5, the Daniel-Johnson Dam in Quebec, Canada, is notable for its arched buttresses, and for its massive reservoir. Its reservoir is so large, that it is apparently visible from space.

The dam has a capacity of 1,064 megawatts and has been a tourist attraction since the 1960s. 

Source: Calvin411/Wikimedia Commons

17. Aswan High Dam: Improving Conditions on the Niles' Banks

Plans for building a dam in Aswan, Egypt along the Nile first surfaced in the early 20th Century. Despite this, it wasn't until the 1960s that ground was first broken on the project.

The Aswan High Dam now has a capacity of 2,100 megawatts, and in addition to its energy yield provides a number of benefits to the surrounding area. One key benefit is that it has helps to manage the river's annual flooding, allowing farms to thrive.

Source: Ovedc/Wikimedia Commons

18. Akosombo Dam: Operating on the Largest Man-Made Lake in the World

Ghana's Akosombo Dam, also known as the Volta Dam, is located on the Volta River in Akosombo Gorge. Its reservoir, Lake Volta, is considered to be the largest man-made lake in the world based on surface area and is an astonishing 3,238 square miles (8,502 square meters). To put that in perspective, that amounts to 3.2% of Ghana's total surface area.

The dam's capacity currently stands at 1,020 megawatts. The dam was built to provide energy for Ghana's aluminum industry.

Source: ZSM/Wikimedia Commons

19. W.A.C Bennett Dam: Creating a Modern Hydroelectric Facility

The first plans for the W.A.C. Bennett Dam were devised in 1961, while W.A.C. Bennett was still Premier of British Columbia, Canada. It was Bennett's goal to create a modern, state-of-the-art hydroelectric facility for the region.

The dam has a capacity of just over 2,916 megawatts. Like many dams worldwide, it has been criticized for its construction and the resulting displacement of First Nations peoples in the area.

Source: Andres M. Panti/Wikimedia Commons

20. Katse Arch Dam: Delivering Water Throughout South Africa

Not only does the Katse Arch Dam generate electricity, it is also part of a complex supplementing the water supply throughout South Africa.

In addition to its water delivery system, the dam - which is located in Lesotho - provides Lesotho with electricity.


Source: SkyPixels/Wikimedia Commons

21. Chief Joseph Dam: Building America's Third Largest Producer of Hydroelectric Power

Located in Washington State, Chief Joseph Dam was completed in 1958. It has a capacity of 2,620 megawatts and remains the third largest producer of hydroelectric power in the United States.

It is named after a Nez Perce Chief, who had been exiled to the nearby Colville Indian Reservation.