Power Plant Operators

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Also known as:
Hydroelectric Plant Operator, Power Plant Control Room Operator, Powerhouse Operator, Turbine Room Attendant

ABOUT POWER PLANT OPERATOR CAREERS
Video transcript

We're so used to a reliable supply of electricity for our everyday needs that it can come as a shock when it's suddenly not there. Power plant operators keep us plugged in.

These workers control the machinery that generates electricity. They monitor the function of key power plant equipment, such as boilers, turbines and generators. They direct the output of the system to meet constantly changing demands for power. They monitor instruments to make sure electricity is flowing from the plant at adequate, safe levels. This is increasingly done with computers and requires constant attention.

Plant operators spend most of their time in a control room. Auxiliary equipment operators move round the plant more, checking valves, switches and gauges. Round-the-clock staffing is a must. You need at least a high school diploma with strong math and science skills to start as a new hire at a power plant. Computer proficiency would be helpful. Rising through the ranks to the high-paying position of plant operator requires extensive on-the-job training and technical study over several years. But the outlook for advancement in this field is less than electrifying.

Deregulation has forced the industry to restructure to cut costs, and that includes cutting jobs. Still, those with the skills and tenacity to build a career as a power plant operator find it an illuminating way to earn a living.

SNAPSHOT
Control, operate, or maintain machinery to generate electric power. Includes auxiliary equipment operators.
Leadership
HIGH
Critical decision making
HIGH
Level of responsibilities
HIGH
Job challenge and pressure to meet deadlines
HIGH
Dealing and handling conflict
LOW
Competition for this position
LOW
Communication with others
HIGH
Work closely with team members, clients etc.
HIGH
Comfort of the work setting
HIGH
Exposure to extreme environmental conditions
HIGH
Exposure to job hazards
LOW
Physical demands
LOW
Daily tasks

Place standby emergency electrical generators on line in emergencies and monitor the temperature, output, and lubrication of the system.

Make adjustments or minor repairs, such as tightening leaking gland or pipe joints.

Control generator output to match the phase, frequency, or voltage of electricity supplied to panels.

Control power generating equipment, including boilers, turbines, generators, or reactors, using control boards or semi-automatic equipment.

Take regulatory action, based on readings from charts, meters and gauges, at established intervals.

Open and close valves and switches in sequence to start or shut down auxiliary units.

Adjust controls to generate specified electrical power or to regulate the flow of power between generating stations and substations.

Start or stop generators, auxiliary pumping equipment, turbines, or other power plant equipment as necessary.

Clean, lubricate, or maintain equipment, such as generators, turbines, pumps, or compressors, to prevent failure or deterioration.

Control or maintain auxiliary equipment, such as pumps, fans, compressors, condensers, feedwater heaters, filters, or chlorinators, to supply water, fuel, lubricants, air, or auxiliary power.

Inspect records or log book entries or communicate with plant personnel to assess equipment operating status.

MAIN ACTIVITIES
Controlling Machines and Processes Using either control mechanisms or direct physical activity to operate machines or processes (not including computers or vehicles).
Inspecting Equipment, Structures, or Material Inspecting equipment, structures, or materials to identify the cause of errors or other problems or defects.
Identifying Objects, Actions, and Events Identifying information by categorizing, estimating, recognizing differences or similarities, and detecting changes in circumstances or events.
Monitor Processes, Materials, or Surroundings Monitoring and reviewing information from materials, events, or the environment, to detect or assess problems.
Getting Information Observing, receiving, and otherwise obtaining information from all relevant sources.
Making Decisions and Solving Problems Analyzing information and evaluating results to choose the best solution and solve problems.
Evaluating Information to Determine Compliance with Standards Using relevant information and individual judgment to determine whether events or processes comply with laws, regulations, or standards.
Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates Providing information to supervisors, co-workers, and subordinates by telephone, in written form, e-mail, or in person.
AREAS OF KNOWLEDGE
Mechanical Knowledge of machines and tools, including their designs, uses, repair, and maintenance.
English Language Knowledge of the structure and content of the English language including the meaning and spelling of words, rules of composition, and grammar.
Public Safety and Security Knowledge of relevant equipment, policies, procedures, and strategies to promote effective local, state, or national security operations for the protection of people, data, property, and institutions.
Production and Processing Knowledge of raw materials, production processes, quality control, costs, and other techniques for maximizing the effective manufacture and distribution of goods.
Mathematics Knowledge of arithmetic, algebra, geometry, calculus, statistics, and their applications.
Physics Knowledge and prediction of physical principles, laws, their interrelationships, and applications to understanding fluid, material, and atmospheric dynamics, and mechanical, electrical, atomic and sub- atomic structures and processes.
Computers and Electronics Knowledge of circuit boards, processors, chips, electronic equipment, and computer hardware and software, including applications and programming.
Education and Training Knowledge of principles and methods for curriculum and training design, teaching and instruction for individuals and groups, and the measurement of training effects.
TOP SKILLS
Operation Monitoring Watching gauges, dials, or other indicators to make sure a machine is working properly.
Operation and Control Controlling operations of equipment or systems.
Critical Thinking Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems.
Speaking Talking to others to convey information effectively.
Active Listening Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.
Quality Control Analysis Conducting tests and inspections of products, services, or processes to evaluate quality or performance.
Monitoring Monitoring/Assessing performance of yourself, other individuals, or organizations to make improvements or take corrective action.
Judgment and Decision Making Considering the relative costs and benefits of potential actions to choose the most appropriate one.