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HydropoliticsThe Itaipu Dam, Sovereignty, and the Engineering of Modern South America$
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Christine Folch

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780691186603

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691186603.001.0001

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(p.31) 1 Current

Christine Folch

Princeton University Press

This chapter argues that Itaipú power is politics in consideration of the engineering necessary to generate current. As Itaipú became steadily more important to Paraguayan politics and economics during planning and construction, engineering and engineers themselves became indispensable to the doing of politics. The first section of the chapter offers a technical explanation of just what a watt is and how Itaipú generates electricity in order to ground the basic argument that the materiality of the form of energy is intimately tied up with the political forms connected to that energy source. It briefly describes how Itaipú generates electricity, discussing the peculiarities of renewable energy vis-à-vis hydrocarbons, in order to understand the considerations and constraints debated by expert energy managers, by Brazilian and Paraguayan politicians, and by civil society. The second part of the chapter focuses on major design decisions on the location of turbines and the frequency of electricity generation. It also reveals how and why Itaipú megawatts came to possess nationality and suggest why members of Paraguay's government and energy sector saw machinery as a question of sovereignty.

Keywords:   Itaipú Dam, Paraguayan politics, electricity generation, electricity current, renewable energy, hydrocarbon, turbine

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