The Itaipu Hydro­elec­tric Dam is locat­ed on the Parana Riv­er, which is the nat­ur­al bor­der between Paraguay and Brazil and is the sev­enth largest riv­er in the world. Although Argenti­na ini­tial­ly dis­put­ed the dam, nego­ti­a­tions and res­o­lu­tion of the dis­pute result­ed in the cre­ation of a plan to imple­ment the Argen­tine-Brazil­ian bor­der. Nego­ti­a­tions for the Itaipu pow­er plant began between Paraguay and Brazil in the 1960s.

itaipu dam

Entry relat­ed to loca­tion: South Amer­i­ca

First of all, I sug­gest you read an inter­est­ing arti­cle: The largest hydro­elec­tric pow­er plants in the world. This list includes Itaipu.

On July 22, 1966, the Ata do Iguacu Act was agreed between the two coun­tries and signed by their for­eign min­is­ters: the Paraguayan Min­is­ter Raul Sape­na Pas­tor and the Brazil­ian Jurasi Mag­a­l­hães. In 1973, an agree­ment was signed to per­mit the con­struc­tion of a pow­er plant. “Itaipu” was the name of the island that exist­ed near this place before con­struc­tion began. It means “stone that dreams and sings” or “sound­ing stone” in the Guarani lan­guage.

itaipu dam

The route of the Parana Riv­er was changed on 14 Octo­ber 1978 to allow the riverbed to dry up, allow­ing the con­struc­tion of a dam. A year lat­er, a tri­lat­er­al agree­ment, Acor­do Tri­par­tite, was signed between Argenti­na, Brazil and Paraguay, which deter­mined the lev­els of the riv­er and the degree of their change, since at that time there were sev­er­al hydro­elec­tric pow­er sta­tions on the riv­er.

On Octo­ber 13, 1982, the for­ma­tion of the reser­voir began. By that time, work on the dam had been com­plet­ed and the side chan­nel gates were closed. Dur­ing this peri­od, there were heavy rains and floods, as a result of which the water rose by 110 meters and reached the spill­way gate on Octo­ber 27.

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The first pow­er unit in Itaipu began oper­a­tion on May 5, 1984. Every year, until 1991, two or three units were installed. The agree­ment signed by the three coun­tries con­tained a clause stat­ing that the num­ber of simul­ta­ne­ous­ly oper­at­ing pow­er units could not exceed 18. How­ev­er, in Sep­tem­ber 2006 and then in March 2007, the last two of the 20 pow­er units were put into oper­a­tion. At this point, the pow­er plant was com­plet­ed and the installed capac­i­ty increased to 14 GW.

Ten of the 20 gen­er­a­tor sets oper­ate at 60 Hz for Brazil and 10 oper­ate at 50 Hz for Paraguay. The pro­duc­tion of Paraguayan gen­er­a­tors far exceeds the load in Paraguay, so most of the ener­gy is direct­ly export­ed to Brazil, from where two 800 km long 600 kV high volt­age direct cur­rent lines pro­vide ener­gy to the cities of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo and the areas around them. The ter­mi­nal equip­ment there con­verts the pow­er to 60 Hz.


The site of the dam was once home to the Guaira Falls, the largest water­fall in the world by vol­ume, but the entire nation­al park was liq­ui­dat­ed by the Brazil­ian gov­ern­ment and flood­ed. Before the destruc­tion of the water­fall, tourists from all over the world gath­ered here for the last time. At some point, the bridge that over­looked the water­fall col­lapsed due to the heavy load, and 80 peo­ple died.

About 10,000 fam­i­lies who lived near the Parana Riv­er were dis­placed. 40,000 Brazil­ian and Paraguayan work­ers were involved in the con­struc­tion of the dam. The amount of con­crete used for the Itaipu pow­er plant is equal to the con­struc­tion of 210 Mara­cana foot­ball sta­di­ums, and enough iron to build 380 Eif­fel Tow­ers. The vol­ume of stone and earth exca­vat­ed at Itaipu is 8.5 times that of the Chan­nel Tun­nel, and the vol­ume of con­crete used is 15 times greater. The Itaipu Dam is one of the most expen­sive struc­tures ever built in the world.

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dam road

Itaipu has 14 seg­ment­ed spill­ways with a max­i­mum dis­charge of 62.2 thou­sand cubic meters per sec­ond, which is 40 times the flow of the Iguazu Falls, the largest water­fall sys­tem in the world. The height of the dam is 195 meters, which is equiv­a­lent to a 65-storey build­ing. The ener­gy gen­er­at­ed by the Itaipu Dam is 55 per­cent cheap­er than oth­er types of pow­er plants in the area.

filming from an airplane

In 2016, the Itaipu Dam hydro­elec­tric plant set a new world record by gen­er­at­ing more pow­er than any oth­er plant in the world: 103,098,366 megawatt hours (MWh). In 2015 and 2016, Itaipu sur­passed the Three Gorges in ener­gy pro­duc­tion.


On Novem­ber 10, 2009, the sta­tion’s pow­er line was com­plete­ly dis­rupt­ed, pos­si­bly due to a hur­ri­cane that dam­aged three high-volt­age pow­er lines. There was no oth­er major dam­age to the dam, but the entire coun­try of Paraguay was shut down for 15 min­utes, and Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo were plunged into dark­ness for more than 2 hours. It is report­ed that 50 mil­lion peo­ple were affect­ed.

The Itaipu Dam is incred­i­ble and in 1994 the Amer­i­can Soci­ety of Civ­il Engi­neers rec­og­nized it as one of the Sev­en Mod­ern Won­ders of the World. The Amer­i­can com­pos­er Philip Glass com­posed the Itaipu sym­phon­ic can­ta­ta in hon­or of the build­ing.