what does a power plant operator do

What does a Power Plant Operator do?

A power plant operator controls the various systems required to run a power plant to produce electricity. They work in a control room that contains status information about various components that are needed to produce electricity and this information must be closely monitored. This information allows power plant operators to control the voltage and electricity flow from the plant.

Watch a video to learn what a power plant operator does.

How to Become a Power Plant Operator

what does a power plant operator do

Though power plant operators need a high school diploma or equivalent, some employers prefer candidates who have attended a college or trade school. Companies hiring for this position may also require you to take exams to test their aptitude on subjects such as reading comprehension, math, and mechanics. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employers look for individuals that excel in science and math, especially algebra and trigonometry. Once hired, you must complete on-the-job training which may also include a classroom component.

Job Description of a Power Plant Operator

Power plant operators control the functioning of power plant equipment. This includes starting or stopping generators, turbines, and other equipment. They are also on alert to detect any deficiencies with the operating equipment to ensure the work environment is safe and that the plant produces electricity efficiently. Since the equipment needs constant monitoring, these operators work in shifts that can span from 8 to 12 hours. The start time of a power plant operator may also shift constantly so staffing needs are met.

Power Plant Operator Transcript

From individual home furnaces to the bright lights of the big city, keeping homes and businesses powered-up takes round-the-clock operations at power plants. Whether from coal, gas, nuclear energy, wind, or solar sources, power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers control the systems that provide electric power. Nuclear power reactor operators control nuclear reactors. They monitor reactor equipment and systems, adjusting controls as needed.

Operators may need to respond to abnormalities, determine the causes, and fix the issue. They must be licensed by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Power plant operators oversee machinery to generate electricity, and keep the system in balance and under control. They monitor instruments to maintain voltage and electricity flows from the plant to meet consumers’ fluctuating demand for electricity. Power distributors and dispatchers control the flow of electricity traveling from generating stations to substations and to users. They reroute electrical currents around areas that need maintenance or repair, and prevent further damage during emergency outages.

Many of these workers operate in highly secure environments, and give their full attention to monitoring controls during their shift, occasionally walking rounds to check equipment. Work schedules are often rotating 8 or 12-hour shifts, which can be wearing as living and sleeping patterns change frequently.

While job requirements may vary from a high school diploma to a bachelor’s degree, these jobs all require extensive on-the-job training. Candidates must pass background checks, as well as drug and alcohol screenings. An understanding of mechanical concepts, spatial ability, and mathematical ability are necessary.

Article Citations

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Power Plant Operators, Distributors, and Dispatchers.

National Center for O*NET Development. 51-8013.00. O*NET OnLine.

The career video is in the public domain from the U. S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration.