Photo: Hydroelectric power in Brazil
In one of the largest energy-efficiency investments ever undertaken in Brazil, a public utility will use a $128 million loan from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to partly finance the rehabilitation and modernization of two large hydroelectric complexes in order to increase power production, lower maintenance costs and double the service life of the facilities.
The two facilities, Furnas Hydroelectric Plant and Luiz Carlos Barreto de Carvalho Hydroelectric Plant, are owned and operated by Furnas Centrais Elétricas S.A. (Furnas), one of Brazil’s largest energy utilities.
Operating since 1963 and 1969, the plants were designed to produce a combined 2,266 megawatts of electricity and are already long past their intended service lifespan of 30 years. As a result of normal wear and tear, their turbines require increasingly frequent and costly repairs, reducing power production at a time when Brazil’s electricity demand is growing at 5.2 percent per year.
Building new electricity generation plants to make up for these shortfalls would cost up to four times more per megawatt than refurbishing the existing facility. Furnas opted to embark on a $600 million program to completely restore the turbines, generators and mechanical equipment and to modernize the control, supervision and protection systems at the plants, along with related equipment. These improvements should enable the plants to continue operating beyond 2040.
When completed, the program is expected to have cost $270,000 per megawatt of electricity generation capacity. By contrast, building new facilities capable of generating the same amount of electricity as the refurbished damns would cost at least $1.25 million per megawatt, and possibly much more.