White Paper: A History of Hydropower

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Contents of White Paper: A History of Hydropower

This NRG Expert White Paper looks at the history of hydropower. Topics covered include: the big dam period in the USA and research on small hydropower development, particularly in Europe and China.


Hydro power generation originated with the invention of the hydro turbine in France in the 1830s. Thereafter hydropower continued to play a major role in the expansion of electrical services, both in North America and around the world. By 1886, there were about 40 to 50 hydro plants in the US and Canada. This complimentary white paper summarises the history of hydro power and looks in particular at the development of small hydropower plants in the US,  Europe and China.



Introduction to Hydropower

The Big Dam period in the USA

Small Hydropower ( SHP )

Development of Small Hydropower (SHP) in Europe

Development of SHP in China



Figure 1: The number of dams constructed by decade (excluding China)

Figure 2: Cumulative number of dams built by region

Figure 3 Development of the capacity of turbines and pump turbines

Figure 4 Development of the capacity of generators and motor-generators

Figure 5 Small Hydro Power capacity in China, 1950 – 2020




Table 1 The 12 largest hydro power plants in the world, 2010

Table 2 Top ten large hydro power plants under construction

Table 3 Large hydro power plants in the pipeline


This Hydropower market research report  is provided on a complimentary basis  by NRG Expert, the energy market research specialists. NRG Expert provide extensive in-depth research on the energy industry and the renewable energy sector. If you are looking for energy market research, download this complimentary report, by filling out the form above, and then review NRG Expert’s full range of market research.