South America

Itaipu Dam : A miracle of a structure

Itaipu Dam : A miracle of a structure

A genius of a man made structure lighting up millions of homes and bringing them out of darkness.

‘Peanuts’ is the word used by some economic experts to describe the impact of Renewable Energies. The common bias is that they are “unreliable”, “not sufficient” and “not feasible”. But the engineering wonder that is the Itaipu Dam has been proving critics wrong time and again.

This miracle of a dam supplies more power then ten nuclear power stations combined. It powers the once second largest city in the world with electricity which gives out zero emissions. The electricity needs of the cities of Paraguay and Brazil are eased by the Itaipu. 78 % of Paraguay and 26% of Brazil’s electrical consumption is met thanks to the Itaipu Dam.

A song in honor of the dam!

This hydroelectric dam was constructed on the River Parana which is located between the border of Paraguay and Brazil. It lies to the north of Friendship Bridge. The Majestic Dam was given the name of Itaipu because of the namesake isle which was present near the site of construction activity. In the native language of Guarani Itaipu means sound of stone. Philip Glass the American composer has even composed a cantata symphony named Itaipu dedicated to the mammoth structure.

In terms of the capacity of power generated annually it is one of the largest in the world. There are units of twenty generators which are currently installed at the dam. Out of them ten provide 50 Hz to Paraguay and 60 Hz for the nation of Brazil.

History of the Dam

Heavy negotiations between Paraguay and Brazil during the 1960s saw the concept of the Hydroelectric Power Plant coming to the fore. Following this the Iguacu Act was signed by the Foreign Affairs ministers of both the nations in 1966. This was a mutual consent to study the feasibility of using the resources of the river Parana. The treaty for establishing a Power plant was signed into force in 1973.

The international competition conducted to realize the viability and elaboration of the project saw a consortium of companies from the United States and Italy emerge victorious. The huge work on the dam started in February of 1971. The treaty between the two nations was formed in 1973. For administering the work on the construction of the plant in 1974 a binacional entity was created.

Facts about the Itaipu Dam

Major changes were incorporated as the environmentalists flinched and booed. In October 1978 the route of the River Parana was changed. This was done to facilitate a part of the riverbed to go dry, where the dam could be constructed. On 1979 a diplomatic agreement was reached by the countries of Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil on the permissible levels of the watershed shared by the countries.

The cities then were governed by military leaderships and the construction put Argentina in a vulnerable position. In a conflict Brazil could simply open the flood gates and drown the capital of Argentina, Buenos Aires.
Mind boggling numbers

For the construction of the dam about 50 million tons of rock and earth was displaced and course of the one of the biggest rivers of the world was changed. The steel and the iron used in the construction could be used to replicate 380 Eiffel Towers. 210 football stadiums of the size of Estadio do Maracana can be built with the amount of concrete utilized in the dam project.

When compared to another engineering marvel of the Channel tunnel which connects the UK with northern France, the excavation of earth was greater by 8.5 times and the volume of concrete used was 15 times more at the Itaipu Dam project. This massive construction had the able hands of about forty thousand workers on board. It also is one of the most expensive projects to be ever built.

The length of the dam spans 7235 m. Itaipu dam is made up of four different dams which are connected together. The dams from left to right are earth filled dam, rock filled dam, main concrete dam and wing concrete dam. The maximum flow of the dam is equivalent to 40 times the average flow of the beautiful Iguacu falls situated nearby. The dam at a height of 196 meters is about the same level of a 65 storey building.