Santo Antônio Dam

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Santo Antônio Dam
Usina Hidrelétrica Santo Antônio.jpg
Construction site of the Santo Antônio Dam
Santo Antônio Dam is located in Brazil
Santo Antônio Dam
Location of the Santo Antônio Dam in Brazil
Official name Usina Hidrelétrica Santo Antônio
Location Porto Velho, Rondônia, Brazil
Coordinates 8°48′06″S 63°57′03″W / 8.80167°S 63.95083°W / -8.80167; -63.95083Coordinates: 8°48′06″S 63°57′03″W / 8.80167°S 63.95083°W / -8.80167; -63.95083
Status Operational
Construction began 2008
Opening date 2012
Construction cost US$7 billion
Owner(s) Santo Antônio Energia
Operator(s) Eletronorte
Dam and spillways
Type of dam Gravity, composite
Impounds Madeira River
Height 13.9 m (46 ft)
Length 3,100 m (10,171 ft)
Spillways 2
Spillway type Service and auxiliary, gate-controlled
Spillway capacity 84,000 m3/s (2,966,432 cu ft/s)
Surface area 271 km2 (105 sq mi)
Maximum water depth 11 m (36 ft) (average)
Normal elevation 70 m (230 ft)
Power Station
Operator(s) Eletronorte
Type Run-of-the-river
Hydraulic head 13.5 m (44 ft)
Turbines 50 x 71.6 MW Kaplan bulb turbines
Installed capacity 3,568.3 MW
3,580 MW (max)

The Santo Antônio Dam is a hydroelectric dam on the Madeira River 6 km (4 mi) southwest of Porto Velho in the state of Rondônia, Brazil. The dam's run-of-the-river hydroelectric power station have 50 turbines each rated at 71.6 MW resulting in a total installed capacity of 3,580 MW. The first unit began commercial production in March 2012,[1] and as of June 2015 a total of 32 units were operational[2][3]. Last 6 units went online in December 2016[4]. Most of the power will be exported to south-eastern Brazil via the Rio Madeira HVDC system.

The dam is part of a planned four power plant Madeira river hydroelectric complex, which will consist of two dams in Brazil (Santo Antônio and 3,750 MW Jirau Dam about 100 km upstream), a third on the border of Brazil and Bolivia (Guayaramerin), and a fourth station inside Bolivia (Cachuela Esperanza). Santo Antonio and Jirau Dam are operating, while the smaller upstream dams are still in the planning stages. In part due to the 2001-2002 power shortage in Brazil, construction of both dams was accelerated in 2009. The total estimated cost of the two facilities currently under construction is $15.6 billion ($7 billion for Santo Antônio), including about $10 billion for the civil engineering and power plants, and $5 billion for ship locks, transmission lines, and environmental re-mediation.[5] The Madeira river hydroelectric complex is part of the Initiative for the Integration of the Regional Infrastructure of South America, an effort by South American governments to integrate the continent's infrastructure with new investments in transportation, energy, and communication.[6]


The Santo Antônio Dam is designed as a run-of-the-river hydroelectric dam and power plant. The dam itself is 13.9 m (46 ft) tall and 3,100 m (10,171 ft) long, creating a reservoir with a surface area of 271 km2 (105 sq mi), of which 164 km2 (63 sq mi) is the previously existing river channel. The dam's power plant consists of 50 Kaplan-bulb turbines, each capable of 71.6MW (total installed capacity of 3,580 MW) divided into four sets. The original project called for 44 turbines, but this was expanded in 2013.[7] The power plant have a maximum discharge of 24,684 m3/s (871,707 cu ft/s). The dam have two spillways; one on the main section and an auxiliary on the southern abutment. Both spillways have a combined maximum discharge of 84,000 m3/s (2,966,432 cu ft/s) to control reservoir levels. The dam also support two fish ladders and a shipping lock.[8]


Brazilian law requires water impoundments to undergo a very thorough approval process to ensure that each project meets environmental, social, politica safety criteria. However, critics of the Jirau and Santo Antonio dam claim that many legal criteria were rubber-stamped before all questions from impacted groups had been addressed.[9] The dam's social impacts received the majority of substantive criticism (see below). However, environmental groups noted that the fast track approval for the Madeira dams sets a dangerous precedent. Brazilian law allows for expedited licensing for eco-friendly projects described by the Worldwatch institute as "kindler, gentler dams with smaller reservoirs, designed to lessen social and environmental impacts." The Worldwatch institute insists that no project should "fast-track the licensing of new dams in Amazonia and allow projects to circumvent Brazil's tough environmental laws".[10]


The most frequent objection is that the dam builders failed to adequately consult with indigenous peoples, as required by law. The Brazilian government indigenous protection foundation FUNAI predicts that there may be un-contacted indigenous populations in the region that will be affected by the Madeira complex. Most of the affected populations are nearest to the Jirau dam.[11]

Other issues related with traditional Amazonian fishermen and little peasants, who are suffering with constant floodings, which, according to them, is caused by the dam.[12][13]


Because both the Jirau and Santo Antonio dams are run-of-the-river projects, neither dam impounds a large reservoir. Both dams also feature significant environmental re-mediation efforts. As a consequence, there has not been strong environmental opposition to the implementation of the Madeira river complex.[14] However, critics point out that if the fish ladders fail, "several valuable migratory fish species could suffer near-extinction as a result of the Madeira dams."[15][16] The strictly protected Serra dos Três Irmãos Ecological Station was reduced in size from 89,847 hectares (222,020 acres) to 87,412 hectares (216,000 acres) in September 2011 to allow for the dam's reservoir.[17]

Opportunities for Bolivia[edit]

Bolivia has been a landlocked country since it lost its coastline to Chile in the war of the pacific in 1884. Many Bolivians feel a deep and lasting bitterness due to this loss, and the Bolivian military continues to build and maintain an open ocean navy in Lake Titicaca, awaiting an eventual recovery of access to the sea. The Madeira river complex presents an opportunity for Bolivia because all of the hydroelectric dams would feature ship locks capable of raising and lowering oceangoing vessels. If the project is completed, "more than 4,000 km of waterways upstream from the dams in Brazil, Bolivia, and Peru would become navigable." [18] Hence, if the project is completed, both Bolivian commercial vessels and the Bolivian navy would have access to the open ocean, and lucrative sea lanes, for the first time in 120 years.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ HydroWorld: Developing Santo Antonio: A Focus on Sustainability
  2. ^
  3. ^ "Jirau dam, responding to Brazil's growing energy needs". GDF Suez. Retrieved 2 April 2011. 
  4. ^
  5. ^ "Brazil to Build $15.6 Billion in Dams in Amazon Region". Water World - PennWell Corporation. Retrieved 2 April 2011. 
  6. ^ José María Díaz Batanero (Feb 2010). Initiatives for the Improvement of the South American Market of Roaming Services Analysis and Recommendations (Report) (in Spanish). IIRSA. Retrieved July 7, 2011. 
  7. ^ "Brazilian Amazon dam's generating capacity to be increased". 
  8. ^ "Casa de força" (in Portuguese). CONSÓRCIO CONSTRUTOR SANTO ANTÔNIO. Retrieved 2 April 2011. 
  9. ^ "Environmental lawsuits filed against Madeira dam projects". Bank Information Center. Archived from the original on 28 September 2011. Retrieved 2 April 2011. 
  10. ^ "Greenwashing Hydropower". World Watch. Worldwatch Institute. 23 (1): 8–18. 2010. 
  11. ^ "Amazon mega-dams endanger uncontacted Indians". Survival: the Movement for Tribal Peoples. Retrieved 7 July 2011. 
  12. ^ "Campaign: Emergency Help for People Affected by flooding caused by dams in Rondonia and Para | Água e energia não são mercadorias!". Retrieved 2016-11-07. 
  13. ^ "About Santo Antônio | Água e energia não são mercadorias!". Retrieved 2016-11-07. 
  14. ^ "Brazil Engineers a Critic-Proof Dam". Wall Street Journal. October 6, 2010. Retrieved 2 April 2011. 
  15. ^ "Greenwashing Hydropower". World Watch. Worldwatch Institute. 23 (1): 8–18. 2010. 
  16. ^ "Madeira River Basin: Hydropower dams in the heart of the Amazon". World Wildlife Fund Global. Archived from the original on 2 October 2012. Retrieved 7 July 2011. 
  17. ^ ESEC Serra dos Três Irmãos (in Portuguese), ISA: Instituto Socioambiental, retrieved 2016-05-24 
  18. ^ Maria del Carmen Vera-Diaz (2009). Effects of Energy and Transportation Projects on Soybean Expansion in the Madeira River Basin (PDF) (Report). Conservation Strategy Fund. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 12, 2007. Retrieved July 7, 2011.