Itaipu Dam

Earlier this month Brian and I visited the Itaipu Dam on our road trip to Brazil. This hydroelectric dam, which first began producing energy in 1984, sits on the border of Paraguay and Brazil, with both countries sharing the generated electricity and operating expenses.

Brian and I went on a fascinating private (and free!) technical tour of the dam.

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The dam can produce 14,000 megawatts of power and each of its 20 generators can produce enough energy for a city of 2.5 million people. More than $6 billion in royalties have been distributed, split evenly between Paraguay and Brazil. Paraguay, with it’s smaller size and population, uses just a small fraction of the electricity it produces. Meanwhile, Brazil consumes far more than it produces. As a result of this imbalance, Paraguay is able to sell its excess energy to Brazil for a significant profit.

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From the river bank, we enjoyed scenic views of the river, the dam, its spillways, and an amazing hawk.

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From the outside, the dam structure is impressively huge.

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Looking up, one can see criss-crossing wires bringing electricity to Brazil and Paraguay.

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Inside is equally massive, extending in all directions farther than the eye can see. There are bikes for the employees to get around inside the complex.

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The elevator inside doesn’t show numbers for the floors; it shows the number of meters below water level. The building goes down 144 meters (nearly 475 feet) below the ground.

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There are twenty turbines total – Paraguay has nine in operation and one in reserve; Brazil has the same. We were able to view the tops of the turbines both from a few stories above, as well as immediately on top of them.

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Next, we went a few more meters lower until we could see one of the turbines in action. It was pretty loud!

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Inside of the dam, one can see the border of Paraguay and Brazil, marked on the floor with a painted line.

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Before leaving, we visited Itaipu Lake, the water source above the dam.

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If you’re interested in this tour, you must be 14 years old, must wear long pants and closed-toe shoes without heels and you must book in advance.

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