Hydroelectricity provides a significant amount of usable power across the world. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, in 2008 hydroelectric generation produced 3,119,012 million kilowatt-hours, or 16% of the total electricity produced in the world. In the U.S. between 1998 and 2009, hydroelectric generation produced between 6-9% of the nation's total electric generation, depending on water availability.
Hydroelectricity is also responsible for many of the largest generating facilities. For example, the federal Grand Coulee Dam in Washington has a summer nameplate capacity of 7,079 megawatts, making it nearly twice as large as the next biggest U.S. power plant (Arizona's Palo Verde nuclear generating station).
Around the world, large hydroelectric projects produce immense amounts of power. When China's Three Gorges Dam project on the Yangtze River is complete, it is projected to include 32 separate 700 megawatt generators, producing a total project capacity of 22.5 gigawatts. This will make the Three Gorges Dam not only the largest hydroelectric
dam in the world, but also the largest power station of any type.
Brazil's Itaipu Dam, producing up to about 14 gigawatts from the Paraná River along the Brazil-Paraguay border, is both the second largest hydroelectric plant and the world's second largest power station of any type.
Brazilian developers have also proposed the Belo Monte dam on the Amazonian Xingu River, which has received key environmental permits despite opposition on social and environmental grounds. If built, Belo Monte would be able to produce up to about 11 gigawatts of power, making it the third largest hydroelectric facility in the world. This week, a Brazilian judge issued a legal injunction against the Belo Monte development, noting the risk that fisheries would be damaged by its construction and operation. Will Belo Monte become the world's third largest power plant?