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General Electric: GE Renewable Energy signs contract for largest technological upgrade of the Itaipu hydropower plant in Brazil

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GE Renewable Energy’s Hydro and Grid Solutions businesses have jointly signed a contract to technologically upgrade the Itaipu hydropower plant in Brazil, the second largest in the world*. A consortium led by GE Hydro Solutions will be responsible for the upgrade of the power plant, which has an installed capacity of 14 GW and is located on the Paraná River between Brazil and Paraguay.

The project, considered the largest technological upgrade of the hydropower plant since its inauguration nearly 40 years ago, is expected to take 14 years and is primarily aimed at updating Itaipu’s technology. 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.

Pascal Radue, CEO and President of GE Renewable Energy Hydro Solutions, said, “It is an honor and an obligation for us to participate in this largest technological upgrade project of Itaipu since its commissioning. 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”, he said, adding, “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.”

Itaipu Binacional is the single plant that has produced the most energy in history: more than 2.8 billion Gigawatts-hour since 1984. Furthermore, with 14 GW, the plant is the second largest hydropower plant in the world in terms of installed capacity. Each of the 20 generating units has the capacity to power a city of 1.8 million inhabitants. The dam reaches a height of nearly 200 meters and is eight kilometers long.

GE’s involvement in a project of this magnitude underscores the company’s commitment to providing technologies and expertise that contribute to the resilience, efficiency and reliability of the power grid. Together with its customers, GE is contributing to the energy transition, not only with solutions for generation, but also for transmission and distribution of energy around the world.

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