The Largest Hydropower Plants in Asia

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Did you know that Asia is the largest producer of hydroelectricity in the world? In 2018, the continent had an installed hydropower capacity of 543GW, which was approximately 42% of the world’s total installed hydropower capacity of 1,295GW.

The region is also home to the 22.5GW Three Gorges hydroelectric power complex, the largest hydropower project in the world. Furthermore, Asia is home to half of the power plants in the list of the top ten largest hydropower plants in the world.

In this article, we look at these power plants and more from their location to the year of construction and contractors involved, type, capacity and cost of construction as well as source of funding. Kindly note even while some power plants in this list may have additional units under construction only current installed capacity counts.

1. Three Gorges hydropower plant in China | 22,500 MW

Three Gorges is the largest hydroelectric power plant not only in Asia but also in the whole world.

With an installed capacity of 22.5GW, the conventional type hydropower plant features a total of 34 generators, 32 main generators (each of which has a capacity of 700 MW) and two plant power generators (each of which has a capacity of 50 MW). Of the 32 main generators, 14 are installed on the dam’s north side, 12 on the south side, and the rest (six) in the underground power plant in the mountain south of the Three Gorges dam.

Construction works began in the last month of 1994. In 2006, the construction of the hydroelectric gravity dam that spans the Yangtze River was fully completed. The dam is built near Sandouping in Yiling District, Yichang, Hubei province, downstream of the Three Gorges.

The power plant on the other hand was completed and became fully operational in 2012 following the installation and launch of the last of the main water turbines in the underground plant. The cost of construction of the power plant, the dam and related components was US$31.765 billion. According to reports, the project was funded through special taxes on electricity consumption and revenue.

China Yangtze Power a subsidiary of China Three Gorges Corporation owns and operates the Three Gorges hydropower plant.

2. Baihetan hydropower plant in China | 16,000 MW

With an installed capacity of 16GW, the Baihetan hydropower plant is the second largest in Asia and the world. The hydropower plant is equipped with a total of 16 hydro-generating units each of which has a capacity of 1 million kilowatts.

The original plan for the construction of the hydropower plant began officially in 2008 while construction works began in December of the same year. On June 28, 2021, the facility began generating electricity, when the first two turbines became operational. Respectively, the third and the fourth turbines began operations in July and November of the same year. The final generating unit was connected to the grid on 20 December 2022.

The US$31.58 billion project, including the construction of the Baihetan dam and hydropower plant, was developed by the Jinsha River Chuanyun Hydropower Development Company. The latter is a joint venture between China Three Gorges (CTG) Corporation, Sichuan Energy Investment Group, and Yunnan Energy Investment Group with 70%, 15% and 15% shareholding respectively.

3. Xiluodu hydroelectric power plant in China | 13,860 MW

The third largest hydroelectric power plant in Asia is Xiluodu hydroelectric power plant.

The power plant is made up of two powerhouses located on both sides of the 12,670,000,000 cubic metres capacity Xiluodu dam. The powerhouse comprises a total of 18 Francis turbine-generators with a 770MW capacity each.

Three Gorges Project Corporation, the company that developed the Three Gorges dam and hydropower plant also developed the Xiluodu hydropower plant with a total investment of US$ 6.2 billion. The monies were provided by Yangtze Power, China Development Bank and China Construction Bank.

4. Wudongde Hydropower Station in China | 10,200 MW

Sitting on the border of Sichuan and Yunnan provinces in southwest China, Wudongde Hydropower Station is the fourth largest hydropower plant in Asia.

The US$ 15.5bn project was developed by Jhinsa River Yunchuan Hydropower Development Company which is made up of China Three Gorges Corporation (CTG, 70%), Sichuan Province (15%) and Yunnan Province (15%).

Construction on December 24, 2015 and on June 29, 2020, the first batch of units came into operation. On June 16, 2021, all units were put into operation.

The Wudongde Hydropower Station comprises two underground powerhouses with a total of six 850MW Francis turbine-generator units each. Currently, these units have the largest capacity of single units in operation in the world.

5. Xiangjiaba hydropower plant in China | 6,400 MW

Lastly in our list of the largest hydropower plants in Asia is the Xiangjiaba hydropower plant still in China. The latter is made up of a dam-toe powerhouse and an underground powerhouse that accommodates a total of four 800MW Francis turbines each.

The construction of the Xiangjiaba hydropower plant began back on November 26, 2006, with the state-owned China Three Gorges Corporation (CTG) as the developer. The project was completed and commissioned between October 2012 and July 2014 at a total cost of US$ 6.3 billion.

China Yangtze Power Corporation (CYPC), China Development Bank (CDB) and the China Construction Bank funded the project.

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