Top 7 Largest Hydroelectric Power Plants In India

Here are the top seven largest hydropower projects in India with their hydropower capacity.

Tehri Hydroelectric Power Plant (2400 MW)
Koyna Hydroelectric Project (1960 MW)
Sri Sailam Hydro Power Plant (1670 MW)
Nathpa Jhakri Hydro Power Plant (1500 MW)
Sardar Sarovar Hydroelectric Project (1450 MW)
Bhakra Nangal Hydroelectric Power Plant (1325 MW)
Chamera Hydro Power Plant (1071 MW)

India’s quest for renewable energy sources
With over 1.4 billion in population, India is the world’s third largest electricity consumer and producer, with an installed capacity of 403.7 GW as of June 2022. The majority of this electric power comes from thermal power plants and fossil fuels.

However, it has committed to mitigating climate change by developing more renewable energy sources like solar energy and wind energy. The country is also focussing on developing nuclear energy by building nuclear power plants.

The unexploited hydropower potential of India
Hydroelectric power projects in India have been one of the key renewable energy sources for producing electrical energy. Although India has the 5th largest hydropower potential (1,48,700 MW) behind China, Brazil, the United States, and Canada, it has not explored the complete potential.

As of March 2022, India has 197 total operational hydroelectric power plants producing 46,850 MW. However, the seven largest hydroelectric power plants generate a quarter of this power.

The subsequent sections list India's seven largest hydroelectric power projects as of July 2022.

Tehri Hydroelectric power plant

Location: Bhagirathi river, Uttarakhand, India.

Installed Capacity: 2400 MW.

Operated by: NTPC took over the power complex from THDC.

It began construction in 1978 and started operating in 2006.

Tehri Hydropower complex consists of a 1000 MW Tehri Pumped Storage Plant, 600MW Tehri Dam, and 400 MW Koteshwar Dam situated on the Bhagirathi river. The Tehri dam is the tallest in India, a 575m tall and 1,128m wide embankment with 52 square kilometers of surface area. The Tehri Lake is used for irrigation and municipal water supply for Uttarakhand, Haryana, Delhi, Punjab, Uttara Pradesh, Chandigarh, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Jammu and Kashmir.

The Tehri Dam was designed in 1972, but the actual construction began only in 1978, after several delays due to social activities. In 1986, Tehri Hydro Development Corporation Limited (THDC) took a significant role in developing the Tehri Dam Project. The hydro complex installed another storage plant and the Koteshwar Dam with 400 MW of capacity, making the power plant 2400 MW.

Koyna Hydroelectric Project

Location: Patan, Maharashtra, India.

Installed Capacity: 1960 MW.

Operated by: MAHAGENCO and Maharashtra State Power Generation.

It began construction in 1954 and started operating in 1964.

Koyna hydroelectric project is currently the largest completed project in India, settled in the western ghats, with the generators installed deep in the mountains. The Koyna River is also known as the “Lifeline of Maharashtra” because of the dam’s massive hydro energy production. It consists of four dams, but the key generators of hydro energy were the Koyna Dam and Kolkewadi Dam.

The Koyna Dam is a 103.2m tall and 807.2m wide rubble-concrete causeway with 891.78 square kilometers of surface area. The dam suffered from many earthquakes, including the one in 1967, which caused minor cracks that created hydrostatic pressures relieved later on. In 2006, the spillway section was strengthened to withstand any future earthquakes.

Sri Sailam Dam

Location: Nallamalla forest, Kurnool district, Andhra Pradesh, India.

Installed Capacity: 1670 MW.

Operated by: APGENCO

It began construction in 1960 but finished after 20 years in 1980 and started operating in 1987.

The Sri Sailam Dam is the second largest capacity working hydroelectric power station in India. Built across the Krishna River in Nagarkurnool district (Telangana) and Nandyal district (Andhra Pradesh), the dam is constructed in a 300 m deep gorge in the Nallamala Hills near the temple town of Sri Sailam, making it one of the few deep gorges dams in the country. The resultant reservoir has an area of 616 km².

The dam is 145.10 m tall and 512 m wide, with radical crest gates. The left bank powerhouse is completely underground and has 6 × 150 megawatts (200,000 hp) reversible Francis-pump turbines for pumped-storage operation. Each turbine can pump up to 200 cusecs of water. On the other hand, the right bank powerhouse is semi-underground and houses 7 × 110 megawatts (150,000 hp) Francis-turbine generators.

The whole project was completed with a capital investment of INR 10 billion. In 1998 the dam suffered from excess floods that forced the dam authorities to go for repairs. As a result, the dam couldn’t generate power for one year. The Sri Sailam Dam supplies municipal drinking water and also for irrigation to several districts in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, such as Kurnool, Nellore, Mahbubnagar, and the Rayalaseema region.

Nathpa Jhakri Dam

Location: Nathpa village, Himachal Pradesh, India.

Installed Capacity: 1530 MW.

Operated by: POSOCO and SJVN.

It began its construction in 1993 and started operating in 2004.

The Nathpa Jhakri Dam, built on the Sutlej river, is the most significant underground hydroelectric power project. This concrete gravity dam is a 67.5m tall and 185m wide embankment with an underground power station that generates 1530 MW of energy. The water flow is diverted and conveyed to the underground power station through the intake structure. Then the six 250 MW Francis Turbines generate power of about 6,778 MW of energy annually.

This power project came under POSOCO and was owned by SJVN Limited. The SJVN Limited is a joint venture formed between the State Government of Himachal Pradesh and the Union Government of India to maintain the Nathpa Jharki Dam.

Sardar Sarovar Dam

Location: Navagam, Gujarath, India.

Installed Capacity: 1450 MW

Operated by: Owned and operated by Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam.

It began construction in 1987 and started operating in 2017.

The Sardar Sarovar Dam, built on the Narmada River, is among the largest of the 30 dams planned as part of the Narmada Valley Projects. It is 163 m high along with its foundation and 138.66 m without foundation. The 1210 m wide gravity dam is the second-largest concrete dam in the world after the Grand Coulee Dam across the Columbia River, US.

The hydroelectric plant generates power from the six 200 MW Francis-type turbines. Being a multipurpose river valley project irrigates 17,920 km² of the draught-prone areas of west-central India, especially the 12 districts of Rajasthan and Gujarat. Moreover, it also provides drinking water to four central Indian states - Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, and Rajasthan.

Bhakra Dam

Location: Bilaspur district, Himachal Pradesh, India.

Installed Capacity: 1325 MW.

Operated by: Bhakra Management Board.

It began its construction in 1948 and started operating in 1963.

The Bhakra Dam, situated on the Sutlej River in the Bilaspur district of Himachal Pradesh, is one of the highest gravity dams in the world, at a height of 226 m. The dam is a part of the larger Bhakra - Nangal multipurpose river valley project that aims to prevent floods in the Satluj-Beas basin, irrigate the adjoining states, and generate hydroelectricity.

The project plan and preliminary works for the dam had already started before the independence. However, the official construction started in 1948 and finished after 15 years. The dam consists of 10 power generators with five on each side, supplied by Japan and the Soviet Union, respectively. The left powerhouse has 3 x 108 MW and 2 x 126 MW Francis turbines, while the right powerhouse has 5 x 157 MW turbines. Three additional power plants - Ganguwal - 77.65 MW, Kotla - 77.65 MW, and Anandpur - 134 MW were added later to increase the power generation capacity beyond 1500 MW.

The Gobind Sagar Reservoir, with an area of 166 km², forms the largest freshwater reservoir in India after the Indira Sagar Dam in Madhya Pradesh and Nagarjuna Sagar in Andhra Pradesh/Telangana. The Bhakra canal provides water for irrigation to 40,000 km² of land in Punjab, Haryana, and Rajasthan.

Chamera Dam
Chamera Dam Hydro Power Plant India

Location: Dalhousie, Chamba District, Himachal Pradesh, India.

Installed Capacity: 1071 MW.

Operated by: NHPC

It began its construction in 1983 and started operating in 1994.

The Chamera Dam is a multipurpose hydropower project in the Chamba district of Himachal Pradesh, with a combined hydropower capacity of 1071 MW. This hydropower development project aims to use the water resources of the Ravi river to provide drinking water and electricity generation.

The proposal for this dam started in 1982. After surveying the hydropower potential of River Ravi, the turning point was selected for the construction of the dam. After completion, the project has been the hydroelectric energy source for the nearby states of Punjab, Haryana, and Delhi.

The dam is divided into 3 phases Chamera I hydropower plant (540 MW), Chamera II hydropower plant (300 MW), and Chamera III hydropower plant (231 MW). The dam forms a catchment area of 472.5 km². The reservoir has a storage capacity of 110 MCM and an annual inflow of 1,273 BCM.

Upcoming major and medium dam projects in India
A report by the Ministry of Jalshakti, Government of India, states that 21 major and medium dam projects are currently in the appraisal stage with the CWC (Central Water Commission).

The top 5 upcoming projects are:

Par-Tapi Narmada Link Project - Gujarat/ Maharashtra
Bina Complex Irrigation & Multipurpose project - Madhya Pradesh
Kalisindh Multipurpose Irrigation Project Ph-II - Rajasthan
Eastern Rajasthan Canal Project - Rajasthan
Indrapuri Reservoir Project - Bihar

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