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GE signs contract to upgrade huge hydropower facility in South America


Itaipu, located on the border between Brazil and Paraguay, began producing electricity in 1984. The technological upgrade, which is planned on site, will take 14 years.

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GE Renewable Energy has signed an agreement under which it will modernize the 14-gigawatt Itaipu hydroelectric plant, a huge facility located on the border between Brazil and Paraguay.

In a statement earlier this week, GE Renewable Energy said its companies Hydro and Grid Solutions have signed a contract related to the work, which is designed for 14 years. Paraguayan firms CIE and Tecnoedil will support the project.

Among other things, GE said that the modernization will include “equipment and systems of all 20 power units, as well as improvements to the measurement, protection, control, regulation and monitoring systems of the hydropower plant.”

In 2018, GE stated that a consortium created by GE Power and CIE Sociedad Anonima had been selected to “provide electrical equipment for the early stages” of the dam modernization project.

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Itaipu started producing electricity in 1984. The Itaipu Binacional website says the facility “provides 10.8% of the energy consumed in Brazil and 88.5% of the energy consumed in Paraguay.”

In terms of capacity, it is the second largest hydroelectric plant in the world after China’s Three Gorge Dam with a capacity of 22.5 GW.

According to the International Energy Agency, in 2020, hydropower reached 4,418 terawatt-hours to maintain its position as “the largest renewable energy source, which generates more than all other renewable technologies combined.”

The IEA states that almost 40% of the world’s hydropower fleet is at least 40 years old. “If hydropower plants are 45-60 years old, major upgrades are needed to improve their productivity and increase flexibility,” it said. At 38, Itaipu seems to be on the verge of that threshold.

Hydropower has its supporters, but there are also concerns about the sector’s environmental footprint.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration notes that while hydroelectric generators cannot “directly emit air pollutants,” other factors related to dams, reservoirs, and generators may have an impact.

“A dam that creates a reservoir (or a dam that drains water to a flowing hydroelectric plant) can hinder fish migration,” it said, adding that dams and reservoirs can also change natural water temperatures, water chemistry, river flow characteristics and sludge loads ”.

In addition, the EIA states that water bodies can cover areas including archeological sites and lands used for agriculture. “The storage and operation of the dam can also lead to the relocation of people,” it said.

Towards the end of April, GE reported that its renewable energy segment suffered losses of $ 434 million in the first quarter of 2022 compared to losses of $ 234 million in the first quarter of 2021. Renewable energy revenues were $ 2.87 billion compared to $ 3.24 billion in the first quarter of 2021. .

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