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Chapter 1



Electrical power is an essential element of military operations. Without it, many crucial systems cease to operate. Command, control, communications, and intelligence (C3 I) functions are highly reliant on dependable electrical power. Administrative, health service support (HSS), and logistical support operations would be seriously jeopardized without it. Some weapons systems are dependent on electrical power for operation. The proliferation of automated data processing equipment that supports modern warfare further contributes to the Army's dependence on electricity. The result of this growing dependence on electricity is a continual increase in the quantity and quality of power required to support operations. The indispensable nature of electrical power compels commanders and planners to recognize their electrical power needs and to ensure that those needs are met.


From the military perspective, electrical power encompasses the entire spectrum of power generation, distribution, and transmission systems that support military operations. It ranges from the power produced by the smallest tactical generators (TACGENS) through prime power to the power produced and distributed by the largest commercial power plants and their associated transmission and distribution networks.

TACGENS, which range from 0.5 kilowatt (kW) generators to 200 kW generators, are standard military portable generator sets. They provide a mobile source of power to units operating in the field. TACGENS are included in unit tables of organization and equipment (TOE) as required. Installation, operation, maintenance, and repair of TACGENS are unit responsibilities. TACGENS power may be supplemented with small commercial portable generators when they are available. Distribution systems for TACGENS power are usually very simple and often consist only of standard components such as general illumination kits or the electrical distribution and illumination system (Distribution Illumination Set, Electrical -- DISE).

Prime power is reliable, commercial-grade utility power continuously generated by nontactical generators (NTGs). NTG power plants comprise the Army's family of portable generators larger than 200 kW. NTGs are portable, but much less so than TACGENS. NTGs require site preparation for installation. They also require the use of transformers, distribution equipment, and switchgear for operation. Installation, operation, maintenance, and repair of prime power assets are the responsibility of engineer prime power units. Prime power may be supplemented with portable commercial generation equipment when it is available. Prime power may be employed as a stand-alone power source. It may also be installed in parallel with a commercial power source. When installed in parallel with commercial power, prime power can be used for either load sharing or standby. The use of prime power usually requires the construction of nonstandard distribution networks to take power to the users who need it.

Commercial power plants and their associated transmission and distribution networks are fixed nonstandard systems. Output capacity of commercial power plants may vary from a few megawatts (MW) to several thousand MW. These power systems are part of the infrastructure, as are other utility systems. Commercial power is provided in the theater by the host nation or nations.


Prime power operations are conducted by engineer prime power units. They provide an essential continuity between power from TACGENS and commercial sources (see Figure l-l). Prime power units satisfy the critical electrical requirements above the capability of TACGENS and below the availability of commercial power. In addition, prime power can augment both sources. The portion of the continuum that is exclusively prime power represents power generation and distribution accomplished by prime power units with their organic equipment. The intersections of TACGENS and commercial power with prime power represent areas of shared responsibility.

One overlap between TACGENS power and prime power can occur when a prime power unit designs and installs a distribution network that is powered by either TACGENS or small, commercial portable generators. Responsibility for providing, operating, and maintaining the generators lies with the user. The overlap between prime power and commercial power may occur when a prime power unit repairs and maintains part of a distribution network on a commercial grid or when the unit taps into a commercial power source to provide power to a user. Chapter 4 provides detailed information on prime power missions and capabilities.

Engineer prime power units provide nontactical power generation and power-related technical expertise in support of operations across the continuum of military operations. During war, the primary objective of prime power operations is to support force sustainment in the communications zone (COMMZ), providing power generation and power-related technical support to rear-area units, facilities, and activities. Prime power support may extend forward into the corps area at the direction of the theater engineer. Prime power operations also support postwar operations including redeployment, emergency restoration of host-nation services, and humanitarian assistance.

During operations short of war, the primary objective of prime power operations is to provide prime power generation and power-related technical support to forward presence operations, contingency response, and disaster relief.

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