Itaipu: clean and renewable energy for Brazil & Paraguay!
There was a stone on the bed of the Paraná River, but it was unlike any other, for when it came together with water it let out sounds as it were singing. Local native people called it Itaipu, the singing boulder. On that stone, situated on the border between Brazil and Paraguay, Itaipu, the hydroelectric power plant that today generates more than 20% of the electricity consumed in Brazil and over 90% of that in Paraguay, was built.
Itaipu is an enormous feat of contemporary engineering, which is ranked among the seven wonders of the modern world by the Civil Engineers Association of North America. Inspired by ideas such as the generation of clean renewable energy; promotion of self-sustainable development; conservation of the environment; research of new technologies; valuing people and improving life; the countries of Brazil and Paraguay signed the Itaipu Treaty in 1973. Its purpose was to fully harness the hydraulic potential of the Paraná River by building together and later sharing the operation of the largest hydroelectric power plant in the world that has to do with electricity generation.
Not a far distance away from the Itaipu Dam are the Iguazu Falls, which are also ranked as one the wonders of the world, but of the natural world and, just like the dam, they also have to do with water!
The building of the power plant started in 1975. At is peak it employed 40,000 workers and unrelenting work went on throughout the next decade. First, the rock fill dam was built and the Paraná River was diverted from its natural stream bed. Then in 1982, as the deviation floodgates were closed, the 1,350km2 reservoir started taking shape. Itaipu started generating electricity in 1984 and until 1991,18 generating units were installed. Finally, between 2000 and 2006, two more generating units were installed and activated so that now that it was officially completed and the Itaupu Power Plant could operate at top capacity.
Today Itaipu has an installed capacity of 14 thousand megawatts (MS). With only one generating unit in operation it would be possible to supply electricity to a city of 2.5 million people. To generate the same amount of electricity as produced by Itaipu with thermoelectric power plants, Brazil would have to burn nearly half a million barrels of oil a day, so one can easily see the environmental impact it is making.
But Itaipu’s conservation initiatives go far beyond that. Vegetation on the banks of its reservoir is being preserved; native animals that were dislodged are being cared for; water quality is being improved and research is also being done regarding alternative fuel.
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