Power Plant Technology
Nature of the Occupation
Power plant operators control and monitor boilers, turbines, generators, and auxiliary equipment in power-generating plants. They distribute power among generators, regulate the output from several generators, and monitor instruments to maintain voltage and regulate electricity flows from the plant. When demand changes, power plant operators
communicate with dispatchers at distribution centers to match production with system load. On the basis of this communication, they start and stop generators, altering the amount of electricity output. They also go on rounds to check that everything in the plant is operating correctly and keep records of switching operations and loads on generators, lines, and transformers. In all of these tasks they use computers to report unusual incidents, malfunctioning equipment, or maintenance performed during their shifts. Such operators are aware of not only how their actions affect the environment, but also are highly aware of doing all jobs safely.
Due to the nature of these positions, most employees work on a rotating shift schedule. Though a 12-hour shift schedule is normal in this industry, companies may require employees to work either a ten- or an eight-hour shift schedule. Being able to work in daylight or nighttime conditions is a requirement for employment in this industry.
Education and Training
The Power Plant Technology program trains students for entry-level employment in the operation of modern fossil fuel power plants, gas turbine facilities, hydroelectric plants, and other facilities where steam and/or electricity is generated. Students will learn the technical and safety aspects of plant operations, the responsibilities of equipment operators, and the mechanical and chemical technology needed for working in related industrial operations.
Certification and Advancement
Workers are generally classified into 3–5 levels based on experience. For each level, there are training requirements, mandatory waiting times, and exams. Graduates of the Power Plant Technology program normally start as equipment specialist apprentices. With sufficient training and experience, workers can advance to equipment specialists (operations/mechanical/electrical), then plant operators, or consultants. Several years of classroom and on-the-job training are required to become fully qualified. Candidates with strong mechanical, technical, and computer skills are generally preferred
$52,400 - $82,000 per year
Job prospects should be good for those with related training and good technical and mechanical skills, because of the large number of retiring workers who must be replaced, an increased demand for energy, and recent legislation that paves the way for a number of new plants. Workers with college or vocational school degrees will have advantages in finding a job, as well as more advancement opportunities, especially in nuclear power plants. Overall, employment of power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers is projected to increase 22% in Texas.