Itaipu is once again global leader in power generation
Ten minutes into last Saturday 17 December, The Itaipu Binational power plant reached 98,800,319 megawatt-hours (MWh) of power generation, beating the former record held by the Three Gorges plant in China. The mark was reached thirteen hours after Itaipu surpassed its own record of 98.6 million MWh from 2013.
The world record in annual power generation adds to the other title Itaipu already held: highest cumulative production. Since its first generating unit came into operation in May 1984 (exactly 32 years and seven months ago), Itaipu has produced over 2.4 billion MWh, enough energy to power the entire world for 40 days.
Itaipu is poised to reach the unprecedented target of 100 million MWh in annual generation, stipulated in the 2013 record. Total production in 2016 should exceed 102.5 million MWh, a number previously unimaginable even by the very people who designed the plant.
For the Brazilian director-general of Itaipu, Jorge Samek, "the ability of Itaipu's technicians and sound management of its resources have once again proved that we really have a vocation for records". For him, from now on "it will be very hard to beat Itaipu. It is not enough for the largest structure to be the best in the world. We accomplished this with a lot of effort and commitment, serving the interests of Brazil and Paraguay, and of course, with the help of good stream flow conditions in the Paraná River”.
For Samek's Paraguayan counterpart, James Spalding, Itaipu is extremely important for both Brazil and Paraguay, which will rapidly and increasingly, start using more of the half of Itaipu's energy it is entitled to.
Chief technical officer Airton Dipp says that the two world records held by the plant (annual and cumulative power generation) are more than just a status symbol for Itaipu, but rather an embodiment of the benefits the plant brings to Brazil and Paraguay. The higher output this year, he highlights, allowed Itaipu to play a bigger role on the Brazilian and Paraguayan electricity markets. “Today, Itaipu accounts for 18% of Brazil's national consumption (up four percentage points from last year) and 82% of Paraguay's demand (also up from 76% in 2015)”.
The increase in production is also reflected in more royalties (compensation for the exploration of water for the generation of electricity) paid to Brazil and Paraguay. Because the calculation is based on the variation of the dollar - and because the dollar appreciated against the Brazilian real - production royalty transfers will be 15% higher this year. Since the beginning of payments in 1985, the total sum of royalties paid by Itaipu to the two countries increased by US$ 10 billion.
Itaipu versus Three Gorges
This year, Three Gorges, which closed November with generation around 83 million MWh, is expected to generate a total 90 million MWh. If Itaipu's projections are confirmed, the plant's final lead over the Chinese plant will be of over 10 million MWh, or more than a month's worth of power generation.
With 22,000 megawatts (MW) of installed capacity (compared to Itaipu's 14,000 MW - or 60% more), China's Three Gorges began operating at full capacity in 2012. However, despite its far superior installed capacity, Three Gorges only managed to produce more power than Itaipu in 2014, when Brazil was facing a severe drought and water generation was hindered.