Power production plant operator

A power production plant operator

Description

Power production plant operators maintain and operate the equipment in power stations and other energy production plants. They repair faults, operate machinery directly or from a control room, and handle materials related to electricity production in compliance with safety and environmental procedures. They facilitate interaction between electrical energy facilities, ensuring that distribution occurs safely.

Power production plant operators typically do the following duties:

  • Operate and monitor power generation equipment, including boilers, turbines, generators, control systems, and auxiliary systems.
  • Start up, shut down, and adjust equipment to maintain optimal operating conditions and maximize power production efficiency.
  • Monitor and control power generation processes, including fuel supply, combustion, steam production, and electricity generation.
  • Conduct regular inspections, maintenance, and repairs of equipment to ensure its proper functioning and prevent breakdowns or malfunctions.
  • Monitor and analyze data from instruments, gauges, and control panels to ensure compliance with safety standards, environmental regulations, and performance criteria.
  • Adjust control parameters, such as fuel and air flow rates, water levels, and temperatures, to optimize power production and maintain system stability.
  • Respond to alarms, system failures, or abnormal operating conditions promptly, taking corrective actions to minimize disruptions and ensure the safety of personnel and equipment.
  • Perform routine tests, measurements, and analysis of fuel quality, emissions, water chemistry, and other parameters to ensure compliance with regulatory requirements.
  • Coordinate with maintenance and engineering teams to plan and schedule equipment inspections, repairs, and upgrades.
  • Collaborate with dispatchers, grid operators, and other stakeholders to ensure the reliable integration of power generation into the electrical grid.
  • Monitor and manage fuel inventories, storage facilities, and handling procedures to ensure the availability of fuel for uninterrupted power generation.
  • Maintain accurate records of equipment performance, operating conditions, maintenance activities, and other relevant data.
  • Follow safety protocols and procedures to minimize the risks associated with working in a power production plant environment.
  • Stay updated on industry regulations, technological advancements, and best practices in power generation to enhance operational efficiency and compliance.
  • Conduct training and provide guidance to junior operators and maintenance staff to ensure their competence and adherence to operating procedures.
  • Participate in emergency response drills, outage restorations, and other critical situations to support the safe and efficient operation of the power plant.
  • Coordinate with environmental personnel to implement pollution control measures, waste management practices, and environmental monitoring programs.
  • Continuously monitor and optimize energy efficiency, seeking opportunities to reduce energy consumption and environmental impact.

Other titles

The following job titles also refer to power production plant operator:

electric power station operative
power plant operator
electricity generation plant worker
electricity generating plant worker
electric power station operator
electric power station worker
biomass plant operator
electricity generation operator
wind plant operator
power station worker
electricity generation worker
electricity generation operative
electricity generation plant operator
power station operator
power station operative worker
electricity generating plant operative
generating station operator

Working conditions

Power production plant operators work in power plants, which can be located indoors or outdoors, depending on the type of generation technology. The working environment may involve exposure to high temperatures, noise, and potentially hazardous substances, requiring operators to follow strict safety protocols and wear appropriate personal protective equipment. Shift work is common, including nights, weekends, and holidays, to ensure 24/7 coverage of power plant operations. Operators must be prepared to respond to emergencies, equipment failures, or unexpected situations that may require extended working hours or immediate action.

Minimum qualifications

The education and training requirements for power production plant operators vary by state and employer, but most positions require a minimum of a high school diploma or equivalent. They may start working as equipment operators or auxiliary operators, helping more experienced workers operate and maintain the equipment while learning the basics of how to operate the power plant. Power plant operators who do not work at a nuclear power reactor may be licensed as engineers or firefighters by state licensing boards. Requirements vary by state and depend on the specific job functions that the operator performs.

Power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers who are in positions that could affect the power grid may need to be certified through the North American Electric Reliability Corporation’s System Operator Certification Program.

With sufficient education, training, and experience, power plant distributors and dispatchers can become shift supervisors, trainers, or consultants. Licensed nuclear power plant operators can then advance to senior reactor operators, who supervise the operation of all controls in the power plant. Power production plant operator jobs are available in various power-generating facilities, including coal, gas, nuclear energy, hydroelectric energy, wind, or solar power plants.

ISCO skill level

ISCO skill level is defined as a function of the complexity and range of tasks and duties to be performed in an occupation. It is measured on a scale from 1 to 4, with 1 the lowest level and 4 the highest, by considering:

  • the nature of the work performed in an occupation in relation to the characteristic tasks and duties
  • the level of formal education required for competent performance of the tasks and duties involved and
  • the amount of informal on-the-job training and/or previous experience in a related occupation required for competent performance of these tasks and duties.

Power production plant operator is a Skill level 3 occupation.

Power production plant operator career path

Similar occupations

These occupations, although different, require a lot of knowledge and skills similar to power production plant operator.

hydroelectric plant operator
solar power plant operator
geothermal power plant operator
power plant control room operator
fossil-fuel power plant operator

Long term prospects

These occupations require some skills and knowledge of power production plant operator. They also require other skills and knowledge, but at a higher ISCO skill level, meaning these occupations are accessible from a position of power production plant operator with a significant experience and/or extensive training.

electric power generation engineer
substation engineer
wind energy engineer
steam engineer
power plant manager

Essential knowledge and skills

Essential knowledge

This knowledge should be acquired through learning to fulfill the role of power production plant operator.

  • Electric current: Flow of electric charge, carried by electrons or ions in a medium such as an electrolyte or a plasma.
  • Electrical power safety regulations: The compliance with safety measures which need to be taken during the installation, operation, and maintenance of constructions and equipment which function in the generation, transmission, and distribution of electrical power, such as the appropriate safety gear, equipment handling procedures, and preventive actions.
  • Electricity: Understand the principles of electricity and electrical power circuits, as well as the associated risks.
  • Electric generators: The principles and operations of devices that can convert mechanical energy into electrical energy, such as dynamos and alternators, rotors, stators, armatures, and fields.
  • Mechanics: Theoretical and practical applications of the science studying the action of displacements and forces on physical bodies to the development of machinery and mechanical devices.
  • Automation technology: Set of technologies that make a process, system, or apparatus operate automatically through the use of control systems.

Essential skills and competences

These skills are necessary for the role of power production plant operator.

  • Resolve equipment malfunctions: Identify, report and repair equipment damage and malfunctions; communicate with field representatives and manufacturers to obtain repair and replacement components.
  • Maintain electrical equipment: Test electrical equipment for malfunctions. Take safety measures, company guidelines, and legislation concerning electrical equipment into account. Clean, repair and replace parts and connections as required.
  • Use remote control equipment: Use a remote control to operate equipment. Watch the equipment closely while operating, and use any sensors or cameras to guide your actions.
  • Wear appropriate protective gear: Wear relevant and necessary protective gear, such as protective goggles or other eye protection, hard hats, safety gloves.
  • Respond to electrical power contingencies: Set in motion the strategies created for responding to emergency situations, as well as respond to unforeseen problems, in the generation, transmission, and distribution of electrical power, such as power outages, in order to rapidly solve the problem and return to normal operations.
  • Conduct routine machinery checks: Check machinery and equipment to ensure reliable performance during use and operations in worksites.
  • Maintain power plant machinery: Maintain and repair power plant machinery and equipment to prevent operational problems and ensure all machines perform sufficiently.
  • Monitor automated machines: Continuously check up on the automated machine’s set-up and execution or make regular control rounds. If necessary, record and interpret data on the operating conditions of installations and equipment in order to identify abnormalities.
  • Ensure equipment maintenance: Ensure that the equipment required for operations is regularly checked for faults, that routine maintenance tasks are performed, and that repairs are scheduled and performed in the case of damage or flaws.
  • Monitor electric generators: Monitor the operation of electric generators in power stations in order to ensure functionality and safety, and to identify need for repairs and maintenance.

Optional knowledge and skills

Optional knowledge

This knowledge is sometimes, but not always, required for the role of power production plant operator. However, mastering this knowledge allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

  • Electricity consumption: The different factors which are involved in the calculation and estimation of electricity consumption in a residence or facility, and methods in which electricity consumption can be lowered or made more efficient.
  • Hydroelectricity: The generation of electrical power through the usage of hydropower, which uses gravitational force of moving water, and the benefits and negative aspects of using hydropower as a renewable source of energy.
  • Types of wind turbines: The two main types of wind turbines, namely those which rotate along a horizontal or those which rotate along a vertical axis, and their subtypes. The properties and uses of each.
  • Nuclear energy: The generation of electrical energy through the use of nuclear reactors, by converting the energy released from nuclei of atoms in reactors which generate heat. This heat subsequently generates steam which can power a steam turbine to generate electricity.
  • Biomass conversion: Conversion process whereby biological material becomes heat through combustion or biofuel through chemical, thermal, and biochemical methods.
  • Fossil fuels: The types of fuels which contain high doses of carbon and include gas, coal, and petroleum, and the processes by which they are formed, such as the anaerobic decomposition of organisms, as well as the ways in which they are used to generate energy.
  • Renewable energy technologies: The different types of energy sources which cannot be depleted, such as wind, solar, water, biomass, and biofuel energy. The different technologies used to implement these types of energy to an increasing degree, such as wind turbines, hydroelectric dams, photovoltaics, and concentrated solar power.

Optional skills and competences

These skills and competences are sometimes, but not always, required for the role of power production plant operator. However, mastering these skills and competences allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

  • Operate automated process control: Operate process control or automation system (PAS) used to control a production process automatically.
  • Maintain records of maintenance interventions: Keep written records of all repairs and maintenance interventions undertaken, including information on the parts and materials used, etc.
  • Ensure safety in electrical power operations: Monitor and control operations on an electrical power transmission and distribution system in order to ensure that major risks are controlled and prevented, such as electrocution risks, damage to property and equipment, and instability of transmission or distribution.
  • Inspect wind turbines: Perform routine inspections on wind turbines by climbing the turbines and carefully inspecting all parts to identify any problems, and to assess whether repairs have to be arranged.
  • Arrange equipment repairs: Arrange for equipment repairs when necessary.
  • Operate boiler: Operate sealed vessels which contain fluids which are heated or vaporised, not always up to boiling, for heating or power generation, such as in utilities. Ensure safe procedures by monitoring the blower auxiliary equipment closely during operations, and identifying faults and risks.
  • Ensure compliance with electricity distribution schedule: Monitor the operations of an electrical energy distribution facility and electricity distribution systems in order to ensure that the distribution goals and the electricity supply demands are met.
  • Operate steam turbine: Operate equipment which uses thermal energy, extracted from pressurised steam, to generate rotary motion. Ensure that the turbine is balanced, and operates according to safety regulations and legislation, by monitoring the equipment during operations.
  • Develop strategies for electricity contingencies: Develop and implement strategies which ensure that swift and efficient actions can be taken in the event of a disruption in the generation, transmission, or distribution of electrical energy, such as a power outage or sudden increase of demand.
  • Operate hydraulic machinery controls: use correctly the controls of specialized machinery by turning valves, handwheels, or rheostats to move and control flow of fuels, water, and dry or liquid binders to machines.
  • Perform minor repairs to equipment: Conduct routine maintenance on equipment. Recognise and identify minor defects in equipment and make repairs if appropriate.
  • Liaise with engineers: Collaborate with engineers to ensure common understanding and discuss product design, development and improvement.
  • Control temperature: Measure and adjust temperature of a given space or object.

ISCO group and title

3131 – Power production plant operators


References
  1. Power production plant operator – ESCO
  2. Power Plant Operators, Distributors, and Dispatchers : Occupational Outlook Handbook – U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
  3. Career Map: Power Plant Operator | Department of Energy
  4. Power Plant Operator Job Description & Salary | SkillPointe
  5. Featured image: By King of Hearts – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0
Last updated on June 18, 2023