Corps of Engineers helps provide reliable power to Iraq
May 26, 2010
AL ANBAR, Iraq -- Fans of the old Star Trek television series were constantly bombarded each episode by Capt. Kirk pleading with Scotty, the engineering officer of the star ship Enterprise, for more engine power to escape one deep space disaster after another. Iraqi residents are also reiterating that plea for more electrical power with the Iraqi Ministry of Electricity as they place more demands on an aging, underpowered and overworked national power grid.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been introducing innovative ways to solve electrical power issues and bridge the gap between supply and demand in Iraq's quest for more electrical power.
To date, USACE has completed 614 electrical projects totaling more than $3 billion. One such project was recently completed when the USACE Gulf Region District, Al Anbar Resident Office, delivered the final two of six mobile electrical substations to the Ministry of Electricity in Al Anbar province.
The project, according to Maj. Joseph Geary, officer in charge of the Al Anbar Resident Office, is designed to assist a generally neglected segment of the population. "The intent of the project is to provide the government of Iraq the equipment necessary to distribute power to many of its small villages and cities without the need for a much more expensive permanent substation," Geary said. "Additionally, as the substation is entirely self-contained on a trailer, it allows flexibility to cover faults that often occur in the country's aging power grid."
The purpose of the substations, according to Geary, is to step-down the voltage emitted from the national power grid and make the electricity usable to the consumer. Electrical power from a power plant is distributed at 132kV (kilovolts).
The portable substations are capable of stepping down the power to a more manageable 11kV, which when hooked into a transformer can supply electricity to homes and businesses. Each electrical substation unit can supply electricity to over 3,000 homes.
Al Anbar office engineers were tasked with designing and managing the construction of the six self-contained, trailer mounted 33kV/11kV substations, capable of being quickly tied into the national power grid. Unlike the normal substation design, the units had to be hardened and capable of operating in extreme desert environments, according to Geary.
The substations also had to be durable enough to operate in that extreme environment for 15-years. The substation contract also includes a week of hands-on training for Iraqi technicians and government officials.
The portable substations are just one of the many USACE projects designed to provide sustainable electrical distribution capabilities in the Al Anbar region. "Our other active electrical projects include two large 132kV substations that serve the residents of Al Fallujah and Ar Ramadi," Geary said. "Past projects by USACE include a 400kV overhead line, three 33kV/11kV permanent substations and numerous transformers and overhead lines serving individual neighborhoods in Fallujah and Ramadi."
The Iraqi owned Altayf Al Abaid Enterprises served as the general contractor for the project. Funding for the $9.6 million project was provided through the Economic Support Fund.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Iraq has completed thousands of reconstruction projects in partnership with the U.S. Government and the Government of Iraq. Since 2004, USACE has completed 5,257 projects throughout Iraq valued at more than $9.1 billion, and has more than 250 projects ongoing. The overall reconstruction effort in Iraq currently provides jobs for more than 20,000 Iraqis.