The Itaipu hydroelectric plant attained a new record in energy production, having generated 94,684,781 megawatts per hour (MWh) in 2008. The previous record-high was recorded in the year 2000, when the plant generated 93.427.598 MWh.
According to information disclosed by the plant's press office, this amount of power has never been attained by any other hydroelectric plant in the world. The Three Gorges Dam, under construction in China at the Yang-Tse River, should not exceed the production of Itaipu.
When concluded, the Chinese plant will have an installed capacity of 22,400 megawatts, as against 14,000 MW in Itaipu. The advantage over the Three Gorges resides in the plant's hydrological situation: the Paraná river, where Itaipu is located, has a large volume of water all year long.
The amount of power produced by Itaipu in 2008 would suffice to supply the entire world for two days; supply a country like Argentina for one year; and Paraguay, a partner in the enterprise, for 11 years. It could also cater to the electricity consumption of 23 cities of the size of the Greater Curitiba, capital of the state of Paraná.
"At a moment of economic uncertainties, Itaipu gives its contribution for Brazil to remain on the path of development," said the general director at Itaipu, Jorge Samek. He ascribed the breaking of the record to a combination of three factors.
"It was a convergence of water volume, readily available machinery, and demand for consumption of the energy," he said. "And these factors were only possible thanks to the growing economy, the competence of the personnel in charge of the plant's maintenance and the generosity of the Paraná River to the hydroelectric plants that serve our reservoir," he stated.
The executive technical director, Antonio Otélo Cardoso, underscored the importance of the work of the Itaipu energy transmission system and said that the record of 2008 may not last too long, contrary to what happened in the year 2000. "Should the favorable conditions persist and the economy continue to grow, then I believe that we may surpass that figure as early as 2009," he claimed.
The superintendent for Operations, Carlos Alberto Knakiewicz, asserted that the technical area personnel are ready to achieve new record-highs. "Setting aside the factors over which we have no control, such as the amount of rain and the energy consumption rates, it is important for us to obtain the best possible results in the areas that we influence directly, such as operation and maintenance of the plant, and that we have fortunately managed to do," he said.
If on the one hand the plant broke its own record, on the other hand, it ended 2008 with a 19% share of energy consumption in Brazil, the same rate as in 2007. This is the lowest rate since 1992, when the plant started operating with 18 generator units – currently there are 20. In 2000, the year of the previous record, Itaipu answered to 25% of the demand for power in the Brazilian market. In 1995 and 1997, that share reached 26%.
For that reason, according to Jorge Samek, the year of 2008 marked a double achievement. According to the Brazilian general director, despite the record, new enterprises are enriching the Brazilian energy matrix and gradually consolidating the reduction of Itaipu's relative importance to the country.
"This is positive, as it reduces the dependence of Brazil from one single source, and shows that the government is paying attention to the energy issue," he concluded.