A consortium led by GE Renewable Energy’s hydropower business will be responsible for the technological upgrade of the 14GW Itaipu hydropower plant on the Paraná River between Brazil and Paraguay.

GE Renewable Energy's Hydro and Grid Solutions businesses have jointly signed a contract for the project, considered the largest technological upgrade of the hydropower plant since its inauguration nearly 40 years ago. 

The upgrade includes equipment and systems of all 20 power generating units as well as the improvement of the hydropower plant's measurement, protection, control, regulation and monitoring systems. In total, Itaipu Binacional covers an average 8.4% of Brazilian and 85.6% of Paraguayan electricity consumption.

“It is an honor and an obligation for us to participate in this largest technological upgrade project of Itaipu since its commissioning,” commented Pascal Radue, CEO and President of GE Renewable Energy Hydro Solutions. “Because of its relevance in providing clean energy to the people of Paraguay and Brazil, Itaipu is key to avoiding future energy crises and ensuring affordable energy for generations to come. Likewise, we look forward to working with GE Grid Solutions to optimize the plant's operations further enabling Itaipu Binacional to make the most of its assets and resources and meet the demand for clean energy in both countries.”

The implementation of the project is scheduled to last 14 years and is supported by the Paraguayan partner companies CIE and Tecnoedil (responsible for the assembly and supply of general materials, respectively). In addition to the modernization of the 20 power generating units, GE's general scope of supply includes the supply of medium voltage cubicles, energy management systems, automation technology as well as the delivery of protection, control and supervision systems for the generating units, GIS substation and the existing 500 kV transmission lines, in addition to two new compact GIS substations to increase the reliability of the plant’s electrical auxiliary services.

Itaipu's executive technical director, David Krug, points out that the upgrade of the plant is the result of extensive planning that began in the early 2000s and went through several phases. According to Krug, the investment is necessary because many assets are still analog or technologically outdated and have been in operation for almost 40 years. In some cases, the manufacturer no longer exists, making it impossible to replace parts. 

"If we upgrade the plant technologically, the problem of spare parts is eliminated," Krug said. "The big advantage is this – we are upgrading the plant to a new state of the art facility and, in doing so, improving the efficiency of the operation and maintenance processes."