GE signs contract to upgrade vast hydroelectric facility in South America

Stretching across the border between Brazil and Paraguay, Itaipu started generating electricity in 1984. Technological upgrades are being planned for the site that will take 14 years.

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GE Renewable Energy has signed an agreement to upgrade the 14-gigawatt Itaipu hydroelectric power station, a vast facility straddling the border between Brazil and Paraguay.

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

Among other things, GE says the upgrade will include “the equipment and systems of all 20 generating sets, as well as improvements to the metering, protection, control, regulation and monitoring systems of the unit. hydropower plants.”

In 2018, GE said that a consortium formed by GE Power and CIE Sociedad Anonima had been selected to “provide electrical equipment for the first phase” of the dam modernization project.

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Itaipu started generating electricity in 1984. Itaipu Binacional’s 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, this is the world’s second-largest hydroelectric plant after China’s 22.5 GW Three Gorges Dam.

According to the International Energy Agency, in 2020, hydroelectric production will reach 4,418 terawatt-hours to maintain its position as “the largest source of renewable electricity, generating more than all other renewable technologies combined.”

The IEA states that nearly 40% of the hydroelectric fleet on the planet is at least 40 years old. “As hydroelectric power plants are 45-60 years old, major modernization refurbishment operations are required to improve their performance and increase their versatility,” it said. At 38, Itaipu looks set to be at the top of this range.

Hydropower has its benefits, but there are also concerns about the industry’s environmental impact.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration notes that while hydroelectric generators may not “directly release air pollutants,” other factors associated with dams, reservoirs and generators do not exist. may affect.

“A dam that creates a reservoir (or a dam that transfers water to a hydroelectric plant on a river) can impede fish migration,” it said, adding that dams and reservoirs “also can change natural water temperature, water chemistry, river, flow characteristics and alluvial loads.”

In addition, EIA reservoirs can cover areas that include archaeological sites and land used for agriculture. It said: “A reservoir and dam operation can also lead to the displacement of people.

At the end of April, GE reported that its renewable energy business posted a loss of $434 million in the first quarter of 2022, compared with a loss of $234 million in the first quarter of 2021. Renewable revenue was 2 $.87 billion, down from $3.24 billion in the first quarter of 2021. .

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