Philadelphia, Pa.--For Soldiers, Marines and Airmen in Afghanistan there are few comforts. Consistent electricity is one of them.

And since the military began sending troops around the world, spot generation is what they used to provide electricity. That meant transporting generators and fuel to wherever the fight was.

But that is changing. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Philadelphia District and 249th Engineer Battalion (Prime Power) will award $131.8 million for 37 contracts that will provide more efficient electricity to U.S. Forces in Afghanistan. These contracts will construct centralized power plants and distribution grids on installations throughout Afghanistan that will help decrease dependency on spot generators that consume millions of gallons of fuel.

"Earlier this year in a meeting with senior Army leaders, we were asked 'how can we save fuel in Afghanistan?'" said Thomas Gibison, Philadelphia District Power Project Manager. "The single easiest and quickest solution was to reduce reliance on spot generation--it was the lowest hanging fruit and would have the most direct and immediate impact."

With guidance from the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations Energy and Environment, Katherine Hammack, Gibison and the Power Team have been in overdrive to award the funds for the 37 projects before the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30. Approximately $40 million has been obligated for 10 projects.

"Our primary job is to get power to the troops," said Karyn Price, Power Team contracting officer. "These awards are in addition to what we normally obligate in a year and they are all high priority."

Construction typically begins within 30 days of a contract award and a project can be completed in about six months.

These projects have another added benefit to the service men and women in Afghanistan: Less fuel consumption means fewer convoys to transport that fuel in a region where travel can be dangerous.

"Most importantly this will take almost 8,000 fuel trucks off the roads in theater," said Greg Taylor, Operational Energy Manager for U.S. Forces Afghanistan, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Transatlantic Division. "In fuel savings alone we are looking at roughly 17.4 million gallons of fuel saved. At $15 per gallon, that is over $262 million for the first year these projects are in place."

From Fiscal Year 2002 through 2010, the Philadelphia District awarded $2.6 billion in power contracts to meet electrical needs in Iraq and Afghanistan. The District's Contracting Division expects to award close to $500 million in power contracts for Fiscal Year 2011. These contracts have leased power generators, established centralized power plants and installed distribution grids at some bases.

But this is the first time that a single large appropriation of money was received for construction of multiple power plants and distribution grids throughout the country.

"It's not normal to get a huge lump sum of funding like this, but it was the result of extensive coordination," said Gibison. "Now we are able to construct 37 projects and are working to identify other project sites in the country."

The project locations were selected based on multiple criteria including an expectation that the site would be used by U.S. forces until at least 2014. Based on fuel savings and transportation costs, the projects are expected to pay for themselves in approximately six months.

"This is a tremendous opportunity," said Lt. Col. Philip Secrist III, Philadelphia District commander. "We are providing efficient power to our war fighters in Afghanistan allowing them to shift forces from protecting resupply operations to executing more combat operations getting after the enemy."

To construct the 37 projects in Afghanistan, the Philadelphia District works closely with the 249th Engineer Battalion (Prime Power), Fort Belvoir, Va. Soldiers of the battalion are the Army's electrical experts. They deploy in small teams to advise field commanders on the best method to meet electrical needs at bases around the world.

Staff Sgt. Shane Basler, Senior Contracting Officer Technical Representative and member of the 249th, works with the Philadelphia District's Contracting Division and Power Team to coordinate contracting efforts to deliver the best solution for the customer: America's service men and women.

"This kind of power plant and distribution grid set-up means the war fighter will have a more reliable power source in the field," he said. "It is great to see our recommended power solutions being funded to best support our war fighters."