Serra da Mesa Dam

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Serra da Mesa Dam
Serra da Mesa Dam is located in Brazil
Serra da Mesa Dam
Location of Serra da Mesa Dam in Brazil
Official name Usina de Serra da Mesa
Location Minaçu, Goiás, Brazil
Coordinates 13°50′03″S 48°18′16″W / 13.83417°S 48.30444°W / -13.83417; -48.30444Coordinates: 13°50′03″S 48°18′16″W / 13.83417°S 48.30444°W / -13.83417; -48.30444
Construction began 1986
Opening date 1998
Construction cost $1.1 billion USD
Operator(s) Eletrobrás Furnas
Dam and spillways
Type of dam Embankment
Impounds Tocantins River
Height 154 m (505 ft)
Length 1,500 m (4,900 ft)
Dam volume 12,057,558 m3 (425,808,600 cu ft)
Spillway type Service, gate-controlled
Spillway capacity 15,000 m3/s (530,000 cu ft/s)
Creates Serra da Mesa Reservoir
Total capacity 54,400,000,000 m3 (44,100,000 acre·ft)
Surface area 1,784 km2 (689 sq mi)
Power station
Commission date 1998
Turbines 3 x Francis-type
Installed capacity 1,275 MW (1,710,000 hp)
Annual generation 6,300 GWh (23,000 TJ)

The Serra da Mesa Dam, once known as Sao Felix, is an embankment dam on the Tocantins River near Minaçu in Goiás, Brazil. The dam serves an associated hydroelectric power plant with a 1,275 megawatts (1,710,000 hp) installed capacity. The dam creates the largest reservoir by volume in Brazil.[1]


Eletrobrás Furnas began studies of the upper Tocantins River in 1981 and proposed constructing two large dams, one was at Serra da Mesa which had good geomechanical conditions.[2] After years of studies, construction on the dam and power station began in 1986. On October 24, 1996, the dam began to inundate and create its reservoir and it was full in 1998; around the same time, the power station's generators became operational.[1]

Dam and reservoir[edit]

The Serra da Mesa Dam is a 1,500-metre (4,900 ft) long and 154-metre (505 ft) tall earth-fill embankment dam with a clay core and in total contains 12,057,558 cubic metres (425,808,600 cu ft) of material. The reservoir created by the dam has a capacity of 54,400,000,000 cubic metres (44,100,000 acre·ft) and surface area of 1,784 square kilometres (689 sq mi). Of the reservoir's volume, 43,250,000,000 cubic metres (35,060,000 acre·ft) is active storage. The dam supports a spillway with five floodgates that are 15 metres (49 ft) wide and 20.4 metres (67 ft) high each. In total, the spillway has a 15,000 cubic metres per second (530,000 cu ft/s) discharge capacity.[1]

Serra da Mesa Hydroelectric Power Station[edit]

The dam supports the Serra da Mesa Hydroelectric Power Station, an underground power station and hydraulic circuit. Before reaching the turbines, water enters the intake near the dam's left abutment and proceeds along three 24-metre (79 ft) long intake tunnels before reaching three 126-metre (413 ft) long and 10-metre (33 ft) diameter penstocks. Water then reaches the Francis turbines which power three 425 megawatts (570,000 hp) generators. After exiting the turbines, the water is discharged from the power house via one 500-metre (1,600 ft) long tailrace tunnel. The power house is 137 metres (449 ft) long, 67 metres (220 ft) high and 30 metres (98 ft) wide. To mitigate water hammer when starting and stopping the turbines, it contains a 69-metre (226 ft) long 20-metre (66 ft) wide and 65-metre (213 ft) tall surge chamber with a 91,000 cubic metres (3,200,000 cu ft) capacity.[2]

Environmental impact[edit]

The Serra da Mesa Dam was sharply criticized by environmentalists before and during construction. Organizations, such as the International Rivers Network criticized the dam and its reservoir for destroying a vast area of flora and fauna along with destroying the habitat of endangered species. In addition, the dam was criticized for flooding archeological sites and $15 million worth of timber that was not removed prior to flooding.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Hydroelectric Power DA SERRA MESA (1.275MW)" (in Portuguese). Eletrobras Furnas. Retrieved 18 September 2010. 
  2. ^ a b Assis, Andre P. "Design and Construction of Hydroelectric Underground Structures" (PDF). Seminario Internacional de Ingenieria Civil – Arequipa, Peru. Retrieved 18 September 2010. 
  3. ^ "Brazil Itinerary: Dam Busters". WORLDwrite. Retrieved 18 September 2010.