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U.S., Iraqi Engineers Bring New Baghdad Generator On Line

By Mitch Frazier
Special to American Forces Press Service

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Oct. 18, 2004 – A new generator came on line here today, bringing enough new electricity to the energy-thirsty country to fuel more than 275,000 Iraqi homes.

The new 96-megawatt generator is the second new generator to come on line at the north Baghdad plant since the U.S.-led reconstruction effort began at the site a year ago. The commissioning brings the total available electricity in the country to nearly 5,300 megawatts, far exceeding the pre-war level of 4,400.

"This site was just an open field with a switchyard and two generators last year," said Maj. Erik Stor, the operations officer for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Restore Iraqi Electricity team. "Working with our Iraqi partners, engineers and the Ministry of Electricity, we have transformed this into one of the largest electricity plants in the country. When we're done we'll have more than doubled the original capacity here," he said.

Nearly $150 million has been poured into the site by the Iraqi and U.S. governments to bring six new generators on line, an effort that will increase electricity production here to 516 megawatts -- enough to service 1.5 million Iraqi homes.

As the endeavor to add electricity generation at the site continues, the effort to transfer control of the facility back to the interim Iraqi government's Ministry of Electricity is under way.

"I have been waiting for this for a long time," said the plant manager at the site about the transfer. "We have worked with the Americans for a year now, and we have a new site that will help improve the electricity situation here."

The arduous process of completing an inventory of the spare parts on hand at the site, hours of classroom training and final inspections by senior officials already have allowed the transfer of 14 electrical stations across the country back to the Ministry of Electricity. The transfers mark the completion of an effort at the sites that put 1,588 megawatts on the national grid and continue to bring electricity to 4.7 million Iraqi homes.

In a country where few were allowed to act independently and make decisions on operations and maintenance, training has been an ongoing issue for the electricity reconstruction effort. More than 40 hours of classroom instruction and side-by-side operation in the plant is part of the process to bring Iraqi operators to a better understanding of the controls and equipment brought in to bring more electricity to the country.

Computer controls, scheduled outages for maintenance, and safety systems were all new to the employees, who had not seen new electricity generators for more than a decade.

"Our job here isn't just to bring Iraq more electricity, it is to help the Iraqi people create a fair and equitable system that will last for years to come," Stor said. "It's about new and rehabilitated generators, spare parts, training; it's about giving them a solid foundation to build from after we leave."

Two additional power stations are slated for transfer to the ministry in October and November, returning an additional 604 megawatts of generation capacity to the IIG. The Corps of Engineers team of civilian and military engineers and their Iraqi counterparts has resurrected more than 20 electricity plants across the country from their pre-war state of disrepair into the cornerstone of the effort to revamp Iraq's aging infrastructure.

The effort has added 1,717 megawatts to the national grid and has pumped more than $1 billion into the international economy. "This is the most electricity Iraq has seen for more than a decade," Stor said. "As the ministry and the multinational team continue to bring more generation sites on line, the people of Iraq will have more electricity."

Despite the addition of power to the country's national grid, the demand for electricity in Iraq continues to grow.

"With more than half a million new jobs created, new industries and new factories coming on line, and with the sale of thousands of washing machines and air conditioners, Iraq has experienced a rapid increase in electricity demand," according to a fact sheet published by the Iraq Ministry of Electricity. "The increase in demand is a good sign of a thriving economy emerging from three decades of isolation."

(Mitch Frazier is assigned to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Gulf Region Division.)

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