Iberdrola, through its Brazilian affiliate Neoenergia, has officially opened the 350MW Baixo Iguaçu hydroelectric power plant in Brazil.

The plant, which required an investment of more than €500 million, will control the water flow of the Iguaçu falls, one of the seven natural wonders of the world. It will also supply sustainable energy to one million Brazilians and its production is equivalent to nearly 8% of the annual electricity demand of the State of Paraná, where the project is located.

During the inauguration event, Chairman of Iberdrola José Ignacio Sánchez Galán stressed that the company was  “proud to contribute to the economic and social development of the country" and announced that Iberdrola's commitment will continue to increase: "Over the next five years alone, we are going to invest around €6.5 billion in new projects in Brazil to continue improving country's electricity supply and, thus, its competitiveness."

Galán also highlighted the social and environmental importance of the Baixo Iguaçu project: "This facility is of benefit to the Iguaçu Falls, as it contributes to maintain the minimum water flows required. In addition, many initiatives have been undertaken in the areas of health, education, infrastructure, public safety and biodiversity in order to preserve and enhance the well-being of the region."

This new renewable energy infrastructure has been built maintaining the highest standards of quality and respect for the environment, says Iberdrola. The water channel has not been modified. Of the 31km2 of the plant's reservoir, more than 20km2 belongs to the river itself. Also, thanks to the use of three Kaplan turbines, the necessary flooding area is significantly smaller than that of other hydroelectric plants of similar size.

Another important aspect of this power plant is that it will have a positive impact on the flow of water over the Iguaçu Falls, says Iberdrola.  The flow of the waterfalls can be affected during periods of drought, and were diminished to mere trickles in 2006. A report by the National Electric System Operator (ONS) has concluded that, thanks to the contribution of this hydroelectric power plant, the famous falls will always have the minimum necessary water flow.

Baixo Iguaçu is making an important contribution to the environment through the Consorcio Empresarial Baixo Iguaçu (CEBI), which has carried out several environmental programmes to monitor, rescue and conserve local species living around the plant. A green corridor for wildlife has also been built.

Beyond this, in collaboration with the CEBI, agreements have been reached with local municipalities to support health, education, infrastructure and public security programmes. Among the initiatives already completed are the extension of a local school and the building of a new military police station.

While work was underway to obtain the plant’s environmental permit, archaeological findings dating back to almost 6,000 BC were uncovered, most notably a series of cave paintings (150 engravings). There are plans to open the site, named the Vista Alta Archaeological Site, to the public, making it one of the few sites that can be visited in the region.