CEITAIPU, A CONSORTIUM LED by France’s alstom, is proceeding with construction of the civil works in preparation for the installation of two additional hydro turbines at Itaipu in Brazil. One of these units will be generating at 60Hz and the other at 50Hz, with a name plate capacity of 700MW each. The additions will increase the installed capacity at Itaipu to 14,000MW by 2004. CEITAIPU’s contract price for the work is US$186M.

An Itaipu spokesperson said the additions represent the power of a medium sized hydroelectric plant which, if built independently, would cost at least US$1B. The low cost is due to the availability of water from the existing dam, with all its ancillary facilities.

Itaipu is currently the largest hydroelectric plant in operation at an installed capacity of 12,600MW. The project was developed by Brazil and Paraguay under the binational treaty signed in 1973.

Construction of the original project started in 1974 and was completed with the last unit entering production in May 1991. Although Itaipu belongs to both Paraguay and Brazil, Paraguay uses only a tenth of its 50% share. The rest is sold to Brazil.

Due to the recent drought, production of electricity at Brazil’s hydro plants has fallen sharply, leading to the imposition of curbs on power usage.

Itaipu, however, was an exception. Rain in the southern part of the country has filled the reservoir to levels experienced earlier in the year. However, no water has been spilled from the dam since February.