Itaipu Dam – Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil - Atlas Obscura

Itaipu Dam

Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil

As one of the world's largest hydroelectric dams this plant took two countries to get built. 


This modern wonder of the engineering world is producing more electricity than almost any other hydroelectric power station in the world.

On May 5th, 1984, more than nine years after construction started, the Itaipu Dam was officially opened. By that time around 40,000 people had been working on the construction throughout the project. The iron and steel used would have been enough to build 380 Eiffel Towers and the volume of earth and rock excavated amounted to eight and a half times that of the Channel Tunnel. It’s no wonder that the Itaipu Dam is considered one of the most expensive objects ever built.

It all started in the 1960s when representatives from Brazil and Paraguay declared a joint interest in exploring the possibility of constructing a hydroelectric power station at the Paraná River on the border between the two countries. In 1970, a consortium was founded to conduct studies in how to realize the plans, and in 1978 the route of the river was changed to enable construction of the dam on top of the old riverbed.

Diplomatic settlements also had to be made with Argentina, downstream from the Itaipu Dam. At the time, the military dictatorship of the country was worried that the military dictatorship of Brazil could use the dam in the event of a conflict between the two countries. There was a fear that the floodgates could be opened, causing a flood reaching as far as Buenos Aires. Regardless, the lake started forming in October 1982 when the side canal’s gates were closed requiring a total of 10,000 families to relocate.

Today 20 generators are still pumping out a massive amount of power. In 2013, the plant produced a record setting, 98.6 TWh getting produced, supplying Paraguay with 75% of its electricity used and Brazil 17%. Ten of the generators are generating electricity for the Paraguayan side at 50 Hz and the other ten for the Brazilian at 60 Hz.

Know Before You Go

Busses are leaving for Itaipu Dam from Foz do Iguaçu.

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October 20, 2015

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