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Itaipu plant reaches 35 years of generation at the peak of productive efficiency
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06/05/2019

The entry into operation of the first generating unit of the Itaipu plant (known as turnover in technical jargon) put into practice an ambitious project that would change the engineering history of Brazil and Paraguay on the global scene. It was on May 5, 1984, a date that would become symbolic for Brazilians and Paraguayans.

The event was restricted to a group of guests, but the feat of that day would soon gain the proportion that the event deserved, due to its importance and to general curiosity. The largest power plant in the world – until then – had begun to operate. The dream was coming true.

At the time, the operation manager José Pereira do Nascimento was the one who checked the machine's timing, accompanied by historical people from the company, such as the former general directors José Costa Cavalcanti (Brazil) and Enzo Debernardi (Paraguay).

At that time, with the end of the commissioning tests, Itaipu would deliver energy only to the Paraguayan market. In Brazil, there was still no transmission line to receive electricity from the binational company. The sale of energy to both countries began, in effect, on March 1, 1985.

Official inauguration

Five months after the first turnover, on October 25, the event gained proportion to the level of the fact. The world was monitoring, through TV channels, radio stations and newspapers, the information and images of the official inauguration of the plant, by the Presidents João Figueiredo of Brazil and Alfredo Stroessner of Paraguay.

It was the kick-off for the leadership of the saga called Itaipu, which, over the years, would become the largest hydroelectric plant in electricity generation, filling Brazil and Paraguay with pride.

Overcoming

Taking a historical retrospective, the Brazilian CEO, General Joaquim Silva e Luna, believes that the success of the venture "was only possible thanks to the efforts of the Brazilian and Paraguayan peoples”.

According to Silva e Luna, from the outset, Brazil and Paraguay were united in a single purpose, "to overcome barriers and erect in Paraná River a plant that would transform energy in development for Brazilians and Paraguayans".

According to engineer José Sánchez Tillería, technical director of the plant by the Paraguayan side, Itaipu has the mission to remain the world leader in clean and renewable energy generation. "This commitment leads us to seek and maintain the same levels of availability and generation of electricity for the benefit of both countries", he said.

World's largest in generation

Even after the completion of the Chinese Three Gorges plant in 2012, with an installed capacity of 22,400 megawatts, compared to Itaipu's 14,000 MW, the Brazilian-Paraguayan plant holds the title of largest energy producer in the world, with the record of 103.1 million MWh registered in 2016. The largest production of the Chinese plant was 101 million MWh in 2018.

In the accumulated total, the sum of all energy produced by Itaipu is unbeatable: over 2.63 billion MWh. This energy would be enough to meet the planet's demand for clean, renewable, and less expensive electricity for 42 days than most available sources.

In the market

The peak of Itaipu's participation in the Brazilian electricity market was reached in 1997, with 26% of the sector's demand in Brazil.

With the entry of new enterprises into the system and the progressive increase of electricity consumption, this proportion gradually decreased. In recent years, it has remained relatively stable. In 2018, the hydroelectric plant was responsible for supplying 15% of all energy consumed by Brazil and 90% of Paraguay's consumption.

In order to maintain operational sustainability, Itaipu is based on an operational principle called "dance with the waters", which is the synchronization of the binational activities of engineering, construction, assembly, maintenance and operation with the hydrological conditions. The work is coordinated by Itaipu itself and also involves some strategic partners, such as the National System Operator (ONS), Eletrobras in Brazil and Ande in Paraguay.

Technological update

For the next few years, new challenges point out in the horizon, among them, putting into practice the technological update of the plant, a complex and challenging activity, which has required a strategic follow-up of directors and advisors of the company.

The modernization will allow the necessary sustainability for Itaipu to continue producing at levels similar to those of today, with repercussions on the economy of the two partner countries of the project.