Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Good News from Iraq: 22 Jul 2008

From MNF-I, Upgraded Substation Provides Reliable Power to 300,000 in Al Kut.

FORWARD OPERATING BASE DELTA — The people of al Kut are receiving more reliable electricity, thanks to the upgrade of the Old al Kut substation 33kV switch gear, which increases the availability of power for transmission and distribution.

Two sections of the antiquated substation were replaced and came online approximately two weeks ago. Government officials celebrated its completion during a ribbon cutting ceremony, July 16.

“The people of al Kut have noticed a significant increase in the power available,” said Staff Sgt. David McFate, a team leader with 411th Civil Affairs Team. “One person told us that they went from having just minutes of electricity a day to several hours.”

Most significantly, the improvements to the substation increased the reliability of power distributed to approximately 300,000 people in al Kut, nearly half of the population.

“The new switchgear was a one-for-one swap with the original equipment that was installed in 1973,” said Kevin Olsen, United States Army Corps of Engineers, and Project Manager for the al Kut substation. “The new equipment provides quicker power on for the three substations the circuit breakers feed.”

Modernizing the substation equipment helps speed up the process of troubleshooting when the power goes out.

“Now the substation switches are easy to check and reset, and much more reliable,” said Maj. David Fedroff, USACE Wasit resident engineer.

The one-year project is just one of a number of projects USACE, the people of al Kut and Wasit province, the Wasit Provincial Reconstruction Team, Iraqi Security Forces and Coalition forces have accomplished together.

“The PRT continues to help the people of Wasit and work with the people of Wasit to get their essential services established or restored,” said Bob Kagler, Wasit PRT leader. “We look forward (to) working with the Iraqi and local government in tackling these challenges together.”

Although the new switchgear improves the reliability of the electricity to the city, the electrical infrastructure still poses many challenges.

“Unfortunately, the distribution network still needs a lot of work,” Fedroff said. “You can see that driving around town, with the wires hanging from every pole in every direction.”

These essential service projects would not be possible without the improved security situation in al Kut and the cooperation with the ISF, said Lt. Col. Timothy Bush, 2nd Battalion, 20th Field Artillery Regiment commander.

“The best projects are the ones that are decided by the people and enabled by security that is provided by the people,” Bush said.

The situation continues to improve for the people of Wasit, one project at a time.