Hydroelectric Plant Technician
A hydroelectric plant technician could...
|Perform tunnel inspections to make sure nothing is stopping water flow.||Conduct routine inspections and maintenance on the generators.|
|Open and close water gates as directed to alter the amount of energy produced.||Use computers to monitor and report the amount of energy produced by each turbine.|
Key Facts & Information
|Overview||Did you know that about 700,000 gallons of water flow over the famous Niagara Falls every second? Moving water is a great source of renewable energy, and two hydroelectric power plants built upstream from the Canadian side of the falls and one hydroelectric power plant built upstream from the U.S. side of the falls efficiently exploit the energy from all that water. Such hydroelectric plants use turbines, rotors, generators, and other complicated equipment to supply us with electricity for our homes and businesses 24 hours every day. Hydroelectric plant technicians monitor and control the activities associated with hydroelectric generation. They operate, maintain, and troubleshoot all plant equipment to ensure that the hydroelectric plant runs at peak performance.|
|Key Requirements||Excellent mechanical and electrical skills, detail-oriented work habits, good observational abilities, solid hand-eye coordination, zest for problem-solving, good written and verbal skills|
|Minimum Degree||High school diploma or equivalent|
|Subjects to Study in High School||Physics, algebra, geometry, pre-calculus; if available, computer science, applied technology|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)||Decline Rapidly (less than -10%)|
This edition of Career Currents contains a lot of information about hydroelectricity including an interview with Dwayne Alley, a hydroelectric power plant superintendent who started his career with a background in machine shop and welding.
Training, Other QualificationsHydroelectric plant technicians generally need a combination of education, on-the-job training, and experience. Candidates with strong computer and technical skills are generally preferred.
Education and Training
The minimum degree required is an associate's degree in engineering technology. Although it may be possible to qualify for certain hydroelectric plant technician jobs without formal training, most employers prefer to hire someone with a two-year associate degree or other post-secondary training in engineering technology. Workers with less formal engineering technology training need more time to learn skills while on the job. Prospective hydroelectric plant technicians should take as many high school science and math courses as possible to prepare for programs in engineering technology after high school.
Nature of the Work
Hydroelectric power is important to many nations. This source provides about 96% of renewable energy in the United States and 10% of the nation's total electricity generating capacity. Hydroelectric plant technicians play an important role in producing and providing uninterrupted energy to the public. Hydroelectric plant technicians install, inspect, test, adjust, repair, and maintain a variety of equipment in power stations, including relay switches, motors, starters, electric governor controllers, and pressure switches. They operate, control, and monitor the hydroelectric generating units and auxiliary equipment.
As in any production plant, large pieces of equipment can malfunction. Hydroelectric plant technicians test, troubleshoot, diagnose, and repair malfunctions or failure of electrical or mechanical operational equipment using precision instruments in order to minimize downtime. They work with system-dispatch supervisors to make sure that the production and delivery of power is as smooth as possible. Technicians are responsible for scheduling and performing regular preventive maintenance on equipment. Because the job requires deep knowledge of electrical equipment, they must track electrical drawings, equipment files, sketches, reports, logs and records, and changes or alterations made to electrical systems.
Hydroelectric plant technicians maintain a standard 40-hour workweek but in either 8- or 12-hour shifts. However, they are on call and must be able to respond to emergency situations, so their actual time worked can be greater than 40 hours a week.
During the course of the workday, hydroelectric plant technicians are exposed to electrical energy, noise, dust, grease, smoke, gases, vibrations, and fumes. They must be comfortable working in confined spaces and around heavy equipment. Technicians must follow all safety procedures and use available safety equipment to ensure the well-being of all employees. Hydroelectric plant technicians can expect to stand for prolonged periods of time, lift moderate to heavy loads, bend, stoop, kneel, and climb stairs or ladders. Because the work can be demanding, hydroelectric plant technicians must maintain their physical condition.
On the Job
- Identify and address malfunctions of hydroelectric plant operational equipment, such as generators, transformers, and turbines.
- Monitor hydroelectric power plant equipment operation and performance, adjusting to performance specifications as necessary.
- Start, adjust, and stop generating units, operating valves, gates, or auxiliary equipment in hydroelectric power generating plants.
- Inform dispatchers or supervisors of the status of hydroelectric operating equipment.
- Implement load and switching orders in hydroelectric plants in accordance with specifications or instructions.
- Inspect water-powered electric generators and auxiliary equipment in hydroelectric plants to verify proper operation and to determine maintenance or repair needs.
- Install and calibrate electrical and mechanical equipment, such as motors, engines, switchboards, relays, switch gears, meters, pumps, hydraulics, and flood channels.
- Maintain logs, reports, work requests, and other records of work performed in hydroelectric plants.
- Maintain or repair hydroelectric plant electrical, mechanical, and electronic equipment, such as motors, transformers, voltage regulators, generators, relays, battery systems, air compressors, sump pumps, gates, and valves.
- Operate high voltage switches and related devices in hydropower stations.
- Operate hydroelectric plant equipment, such as turbines, pumps, valves, gates, fans, electric control boards, and battery banks.
- Take readings and record data such as water levels, temperatures, and flow rates.
- Test and repair or replace electrical equipment, such as circuit breakers, station batteries, cable trays, conduits, and control devices.
- Change oil, hydraulic fluid, or other lubricants to maintain condition of hydroelectric plant equipment.
- Connect metal parts or components in hydroelectric plants by welding, soldering, riveting, tapping, bolting, bonding, or screwing.
- Cut, bend, or shape metal for applications in hydroelectric plants, using equipment such as hydraulic benders and pipe threaders.
- Erect scaffolds, platforms, or hoisting frames to access hydroelectric plant machinery or infrastructure for repair or replacement.
- Lift and move loads, using cranes, hoists, and rigging, to install or repair hydroelectric system equipment or infrastructure.
- Perform preventive or corrective containment and cleanup measures in hydroelectric plants to prevent environmental contamination.
- Perform tunnel or field inspections of hydroelectric plant facilities or resources.
- Splice and terminate cables or electrical wiring in hydroelectric plants.
Companies That Hire Hydroelectric Plant Technicians
Explore what you might do on the job with one of these projects...
Do you have a specific question about a career as a Hydroelectric Plant Technician that isn't answered on this page? Post your question on the Science Buddies Ask an Expert Forum.
- BLS. (2016). Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH), 2016 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved July 1, 2017.
- NIH Office of Science Education. (n.d.). LifeWorks. Retrieved March 20, 2014.
- O*Net Online. (2016). National Center for O*Net Development. Retrieved July 1, 2017.
- National Energy Education Development. (2007, March). Career Chat with Dwayne Alley Power Plant Superintendent Career Currents, 2 (3). Retrieved March 19, 2014.
- U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Reclamation Power Resources Office. (2005, July). Hydroelectric power. Retrieved March 3, 2011.
- Anderson, YouTube. (2019, December 22). On the Job: Evan Brewer, Big Creek Hydro Operator Mechanic. Retrieved February 24, 2021.
We'd like to acknowledge the additional support of:
Explore Our Science Videos
Lift Ice with Yarn STEM activity
Is the Egg Raw or Cooked? STEM activity
Make a Hygrometer to Measure Humidity - STEM activity