We took an amazing tour of the world’s largest hydro-electric power plant yesterday, twenty turbines, half owned by Brazil, half owned by Paraguay. Our group was about a dozen, we the only two who needed an English translation.
It is an imposing structure, not to mention how much power this plant distributes to Brazil and Paraguay, something like 20% of all Brazil and 95% of all Paraguay get their electricity from here.
The history of the plant, from the Itaipu website. I’ll save you the whole history and let you choose what you want to know by clicking the link.
In 1973, technicians sailed the river in search for the best spot where to build Itaipu Binacional. The location is chosen after studies performed with the help of a raft. In the heart of Latin America, Brazilians and Paraguayans point to a river stretch known as Itaipu, which in the tupi language means “the singing boulder”.
Itaipu Binacional becomes an irreversible reality. The excavation of the Paraná River detour is completed within schedule. On October 20, 1978, 58 tons of dynamite explode the two cofferdams that protected the construction of the new course.
The construction work at the dam ended late in October 1982. However, the work at Itaipu does not stop. The closing of the detour channel gates to create the plant’s reservoir kick starts operation Mymba Kuera (which in the native tupi-guarani language means “animal catching”). The operation saves the lives of 36,450 animals living in the area to be flooded by the lake. Because of the torrential rains and floods at the time, the currents of the Paraná River took 14 days to fill up the reservoir. The body of water covers 135 thousand hectares, or four times the size of the Guanabara Bay.
Our tour was regimented, down to the minute, on a company bus. Stay within the lines, three minutes here, five minutes there, hardhats here, but always photos allowed. Interesting, we thought. We were half expecting to be told “no photos”.
We traversed the site from top to bottom, even going down the elevators to see and hear a turbine in action. There are two schematic photos in case you (EarthImage) want to build a turbine at home!
Also, another rare sighting of the Random American Tourist.
Check out the one photo of all the power lines. I couldn’t even get photos of the hundreds more. I must admit standing so close to high-voltage overhead lines, I was a bit uncomfortable and I wondered if nearby residents are concerned. It was NOT a question I felt able, or comfortable, asking our guide, whose English, while good, might not have been able to understood a semi-political question.