Energy Future

10 spectacular, awe-inspiring power stations

Share
Mehmet Salih Guler | Photolibrary | Getty Images

Society's craving for energy is insatiable.

According to the International Energy Outlook for 2013, world energy consumption is expected to increase by 56 percent in the next thirty or so years, with global energy use predicted to reach 820 quadrillion Btu – British Thermal Units – by 2040.

Some of the world's most mesmerizing, awe-inspiring structures generate this energy.

Here, CNBC.com takes a look at ten of the planet's most spectacular, from green, clean hydroelectric dams to vast nuclear installations.

By Anmar Frangoul, special to CNBC.com

London Array, UK

Bloomberg | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Located off the Kent and Essex coasts, the London Array is one of the world's biggest wind farms.

With 175 turbines, the site has the capacity to power roughly 500,000 homes and cut the UK's CO2 emissions by 900,000 tons annually.

The first turbine on the site became fully operational in 2012. Since then, 3 terrawatt hours (TWh) of net output has been generated, saving an estimated 1.29 million tons of CO2 emissions.


Bruce Nuclear Generating Station, Canada

Dick Loek | Toronto Star | Getty Images

Located on a site of 2,300 acres on the shores of Lake Huron, Ontario, Bruce Power is home to the world's largest nuclear facility, and generates 6,300 megawatts of power.

Employing over 4,000 people, the site produced 30 percent of Ontario's power in 2013, including more than half of its nuclear power.


Grand Coulee Dam, United States

John Beckman Jr | iStock / 360 | Getty Images

Construction on the Grand Coulee Dam started in 1933, and despite its age, it is still one of the world's most iconic – and productive – producers of electricity.

A hydroelectric power facility, the Grand Coulee Dam is located on the Columbia River in the state of Washington. It has a length of over 1.5 km and a generating capacity of more than 6,800 megawatts.

The largest concrete structure in North America, it can generate enough power to supply over two million homes with electricity.


Agua Caliente, United States

Bloomberg | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Located in Arizona, Agua Caliente – or "hot water" – is the world's largest solar photovoltaic power project in operation.

Situated on a 2,400 acre site, Agua Caliente can generate clean energy for 225,000 homes.

According to NRG Solar, the site's sponsor, it is estimated that, over 25 years, Agua Caliente will offset 5.5 million metric tons of CO2, which according to the company is "the equivalent of taking over 40,000 cars off the road annually".



Hellisheiði Power Station, Iceland

Stephen Toner | Stone | Getty Images

With a capacity of 303 megawatts of electricity and 133 megawatts of thermal energy, Hellisheiði is one of the world's largest geothermal power stations.

Located on an active volcanic ridge in the south west of Iceland, Hellisheiði is a symbol of Iceland's expertise in geothermal energy.

According to the National Energy Authority of Iceland, 66 percent of the country's primary energy usage comes from geothermal sources.

Battersea Power Station, UK

Claudio Divizia | iStock / 360 | Getty Images

Now decommissioned and in the process of being turned into luxury apartments in an £8 billion ($13.5 billion) development, Battersea Power Station was nevertheless one of the world's most iconic power stations.

Europe's largest brick building, the first of Battersea's brick chimneys was built in 1931, and the coal-fired site had a capacity of 503 megawatts. Electricity production at Battersea stopped in 1983.


Itaipu, Brazil/Paraguay

nicolasdecorte | iStock / 360 | Getty Images

A joint project between the Brazilian and Paraguayan governments, Itaipu is located on the Paraná River, which divides the two countries.

Itaipu, a hydroelectric power plant, was built in 1984. Standing 196 meters and with a length of nearly eight kilometres, it is the world's largest producer of clean energy.

In 2013 Itaipu generated a staggering 98,630,035 megawatts per hour, according to its operators. This provided Brazil and Paraguay with 16.9 percent and 75 percent of their electricity respectively.

As well as being a clean energy titan, Itaipu is also a tourist attraction: in 2013, almost one million people visited the dam.

Three Gorges Dam, China

TPG | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Situated on the Yangtze River in Hubei province, China, the Three Gorges Dam reportedly cost more than $20 billion to build. Construction began in 1994, and the plant became fully operational in 2012.

A hydroelectric dam, Three Gorges stands 185 meters tall and its 32 turbines can generate an estimated 22,000 megawatts, enough power to supply millions of homes.

This clean energy has, though, come at a cost: more than 1.3 million people have reportedly been displaced as a result of the project, and 140 towns, 1,350 villages and 13 cities submerged underwater.


The Geysers, United States

Kim Steele | The Image Bank | Getty Images

The Geysers is the world's largest complex of geothermal power plants.

Opened in 1960 and situated north of San Francisco, California, The Geysers has a capacity of more than 1,500 megawatts.

The Calpine Corporation is the owner operator of fifteen power plants on the site. According to Calpine, these plants are able to generate roughly 725 megawatts, which could power more than 700,000 homes.


Gujarat Solar Park, India

AFP | AFP | Getty Images

With an expected completion date of late 2014, the Gujarat Solar Park comprises a series of solar parks in the north west of India.

Spread over 5,000 acres, it is expected that the clean energy produced by the complex will save around eight million tons of CO2 annually.