KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan (Army News Service, Jan. 11, 2011) -- Businesses on the east side of Kandahar City are about to get around-the-clock power generation.

The diesel power plant will provide reliable power to factories and small businesses in that area. Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat, the national power utility company, energized the Shurandam Industrial Park power plant Dec. 1 in cooperation with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Afghanistan Engineer District - South.

The plant has been operating 24 hours a day since it was turned on -- a significant increase in the amount of power that businesses currently receive in that industrial park.

During a ceremony, Jan. 6, to celebrate the opening of the plant, Karl W. Eikenberry, the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, said the plant represents an improvement and a step forward for Kandahar in reclaiming its past glory.

"Infrastructure and power contribute to better security," Eikenberry said. "They demonstrate that the government of Kandahar City is providing better services to its people. To the businessmen, power enables you to grow the economy of Kandahar. I have great confidence this power station can help make a difference for farmers, traders, businessmen and entrepreneurs."

Dozens of Afghan business and industry leaders, factory owners, and U.S military and civilian government officials were gathered at the celebratory opening of the new 10-megawatt diesel generator power plant. Included among those was Dr. Tooryalai Wesa, governor of Kandahar City.

The Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan is working with U.S. agencies to provide more power to Kandahar City for business and economic growth. The Shurandam power plant is an intermediate step in a planned progression to bring Kandahar City to sustainable and reliable power to jumpstart business and economic development until the U.S. Agency for International Development can install a third turbine at Kajaki Dam and improve the distribution. In addition to GIRoA, DABS, USACE, and USAID, the partnership includes the Kandahar Provincial Reconstruction Team and ISAF Regional Command - South.

Providing sufficient power can't be done quickly, so an interim -- or bridging solution -- resulted in the first 10-megawatt plant at Shurandam Industrial Park. A second 10-megawatt plant is under construction on the west side of Kandahar City, at Bagh-e-Pol, and will come online in early March. The Corps of Engineers is managing the construction and the operations-and-maintenance contract for the diesel plants.

"We are proud to be part of the team to help build the power plant, working in partnership with Engineer Faisal and your power department," said Col. Anthony C. Funkhouser, commander of the Afghanistan Engineer District - South to those gathered at the official opening of the plant. "It is the vision of your leaders who saw this need to provide immediate power and who asked us to help them."

Funkhouser described how the power bridging solution fits into the Kandahar City Power Initiative, a plan to increase power generation and distribution to the city over the next three years. The initiative invests more than $600 million in the Southern Electrical Power System, which is the utility system serving the Kandahar, Helmand and Uruzgan provinces.

Kandahar City has approximately 26 megawatts of power available to it, with 12 megawatts coming from hydropower produced at Kajaki Dam and 14 megawatts produced through diesel generators maintained by DABS.

The diesel generator plants will add power to the grid, and USAID has contracts in place to strengthen and expand the distribution system, plus install the third turbine at Kajaki Dam, located in the Helmand province, which is recognized as the sustainable solution to supplying additional power to Kandahar City.

"Engineer Faisal and his team were absolutely critical to helping us make this happen," Funkhouser said.

Chief Warrant Officer 5 Thomas B. Black, a power specialist with the Afghanistan Engineer District - South, said that DABS is an exceptional partner. "First, they selected this site as a key area for industry to grow," he said.

"Then, when we were ready to tie the diesel plant into the existing transmission system, DABS engineers isolated Feeder 514 from the main substation at Breshna Kot so that our contractor could connect into it safely," Black continued. "They are performing repairs and maintenance on the feeder lines as we commission the system and as businesses hook up. Meeting the intent and maximizing the effect is a combined effort; USACE generates it, DABS distributes it."

Funkhouser told the audience that commissioning will continue for about another month, and during that time remaining construction at the site will be completed on the warehouse, fencing and fuel pads.

The Afghanistan Engineer District - South also awarded a contract that provides DABS with spare parts and tools to repair distribution networks, acquire maintenance vehicles, prepare connections to the power plants, and perform other maintenance services. This project, as well as the bridging solution, is being funded through the Commander's Emergency Response Program, which provides projects or services that immediately assist the population.

He also said that the most important relationship that the Corps of Engineers has is "with your government and with DABS to improve power. We will continue to work together to exchange experience to keep the plants running.

The diesel plants are intended to be in place for three years, until a longer term solution is in place to provide sustainable, affordable power to Kandahar City.

(Joan Kibler writes for the Army Corps of Engineers)