Plans to give Baghdad more electrical power advance with generator's arrival
BAGHDAD — The Army cautiously moved a massive 300-ton generator through the Iraqi capital Monday night.
The $30 million generator will produce about 157 megawatts of power, enough to add 30 minutes of power each day to the whole city, said Brig. Gen. Steve Hawkins, who heads the Restore Iraqi Electricity program.
“This will make a difference for the progress of Iraq,” said a smiling Hawkins, as flatbed trucks carrying the behemoth generator and its companion turbine inched their way over the July 14th Bridge. “You’ve got to have power.”
Most Iraqis in Baghdad each day have about 12 hours of power coming and going in three-hour cycles. Essential services, such as police stations and hospitals, are given continual power.
With some generators down for maintenance, the city currently draws about 4,000 megawatts. But by June, engineers hope to have 6,000 megawatts to power Baghdad, increasing electricity to 16 hours per day.
Moving the generator is part of a $1 billion plan to beef up Iraq’s electricity, said Col. Todd Semonite, deputy commander of the Iraqi electricity program.
The 90-person RIE team, which falls under the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Gulf Region division, arrived Sept. 1 to find a fragile and immature electrical grid, Semonite said. The team has 26 projects under way focused on five categories: generating new power; rehabilitating existing equipment; building new lines; creating a computer-based grid control; and teaching Iraqis to use and maintain equipment.
When it’s up and running, the new generator will support a ring of electrical infrastructure surrounding Baghdad, Semonite said. Built in France, the mammoth generator was bought for Iraq under the U.N. Oil For Food program. Army engineers found it in a neighboring Arab country, which Army officials asked not be named for security reasons.
During the two-week journey, a civilian road crew supported the generator’s slothlike pace to Baghdad. Crews repaired potential road hazards and lifted power lines. Routes and bridges were scouted and tested.
Soldiers provided security along each leg of the route, which included passing through insurgent hot spots such as Ramadi and Fallujah.
Each leg of the trek was carefully orchestrated, but navigating tight city streets and providing security from attack was challenging for the troops. Squads of soldiers, assisted by Iraqi police, blocked off the route. Helicopters buzzed overhead as the growling tractor-trailers snorted their way through Baghdad’s thoroughfares.
About 10:45 p.m. Monday, insurgents launched a rocket attack at the Coalition Provisional Authority Headquarters inside the protected Green Zone. The loud bang was heard across the city, but the generator lumbered on, heading toward a power plant on the city’s outskirts.
And it appears to have arrived when Iraqis need it most.
As the entourage weaved through the city’s east side, the power went out.