Monday, April 9, 2007

Brazil and the use of Hydro Electricity

Until the Three Gorges Dam in China came into operation in May 2006, Itaipu Binacional, on the border between Brazil and Paraguay, was the biggest hydroelectric dam in the world. Itaipu provides in 95% of the energy of Paraguay and 20% of Brazil’s, including the mega cities São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.[1] Itaipu is not the only hydroelectric plant in Brazil, about 91% of all electricity is generated by water, which is unprecedented in the world.[2] As a consequence Brazil has become world leader in hydroelectric plants. The turbines of Three Gorges Dam in China are made in Brazil. [3]

Hydroelectricity may be a clean way to generate energy but it is not sustainable by definition. The construction of the dam, and in particular the basin can have a negative influence on the ecology of the dammed river and its surroundings. In the case of Itaipu special attention was given to this aspect. With the formation of the basin in 1982, with a length of 170 km, not only 42.000 inhabitants were evacuated (including their graveyards and archeological sites), but also the alligators, tapirs, dears, raccoons, panthers, monkeys and snakes that lived in the area (rescuers had to be vaccinated in anticipation of possible poisonous hazards). Usually these kinds of operations are merely cosmetic, with no further action involved, but in this case a new habitat of about 65.000 acre was created for the animals.[4]

To be able to deal with droughts, an integrated system of channels and basins was constructed. This way water shortages in one area could be compensated with water from another area. As a result of privatization of the hydroelectric plants this system has slowly disintegrated, which has made the energy grid more fragile.

[1] www.itaipu.gov.br
[2] Brazil Nuclear Programs – April 1997
[3] IMF and Energy Pirates made Brazil’s Electricity Crisis, ‘California Style’ – Nilder Costa – Executive Intelligence Review – July 20, 2001
[4] Brazil makes huge lake, mindful of man and beast - Warren Hoge - The New York Times - October 15, 1982

1 comment:

Srikanto Bormon said...


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