Itaipu hydropower plant to undergo 10-year controls overhaul

Fresh off setting a new world record for annual power generation, operator Itaipu Binacional has announced a 10-year plan to upgrade plan that will further increase the Itaipu hydropower plant’s output.

The 14 GW project’s new mark of 103.09 TWh generated through 2016 broke the record previously held by China’s Three Gorges, and though Itaipu ran at a reported 96% efficiency level, operators said there is still room for improvement.

“Itaipu has reached its maturity and is at the peak of production,” general director Jorge Samek said. “However, to ensure the continuity of this performance in the coming decades, the plant will need to undergo a process of technological updating and replacing equipment that is nearing the end of its useful life.”

The bulk of the upgrade and modernization work covers the replacement of existing controls with a digital monitoring system, and will give operators more comprehensive tools to supervise and control the plant’s generating equipment.

“It is more or less like a car,” engineer Angelo Mibielli said. “In the old days, the dashboard gave you only some information on the amount of fuel, engine temperature and oil. Today, it provides a series of data such as autonomy, average consumption and a diagnosis of important parts of the engine, among others.”

The initiative is projected to cost around US$500 million, and will see each of Itaipu’s 20 units upgraded at a rate of about two per year. Itaipu Binacional said it is currently gathering technical data required for potential suppliers, with bidding expected to take place in 2018.

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Michael Harris formerly was Editor for HydroWorld.com.

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