Power Systems Engineering
Power systems engineering, otherwise known as power engineering, is a branch of electrical engineering that focuses on ensuring that power grids operate safely, assessing efficiency of existing solar plants, and directing and implementing solar power projects. Power systems engineers are considered part of the clean energy industry. As part of their work, they are involved in preparing and studying technical drawings, specifications of electrical systems, and topographical maps to ensure that installation and operations conform to industry standards and customer requirements. They direct and coordinate construction, installation, maintenance, support, documentation, and testing activities to see that they comply with specifications. They are also involved in designing, implementing, and maintaining systems for commercial and industrial purposes, using calculations to investigate manufacturing, construction, and installation specifications, and planning and implementing research methods and procedures to apply electrical theory principles to engineering projects. Power systems engineers often work for utility companies and are electrical engineers who specialize in generating and distributing electricity.
This branch of electrical engineering is typically considered among the three components of generation, transmission, and distribution. Power engineers who work on generation convert forms of energy into electric power with sources of power including fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas, hydropower, nuclear power, solar power, and wind power. Power engineers who work on transmission move power from the power station where the power is generated to the location of the customer. Power engineers who work on distribution develop and maintain systems that distribute power to the user in voltages that can be used by the user’s equipment.
Power engineers work with devices such as motors, batteries, and capacitors, and assist with processes such as power conversion, power drop, and blackouts. They analyze and design phenomena such as the stability of a power network and conduct power flow studies. Areas they focus on include renewable energy and environmentally friendly power systems. In addition to working for utilities companies, power systems engineers may also work for universities and research institutions that advance the state of power engineering and educate new power engineers.
Skills that power engineers need include the ability to understand technical drawings and use engineering computer software, have good interpersonal skills, strong math skills, project management skills, supervisory skills, a thorough understanding of current research methodologies, and knowledge of topography and geography. The preferred degree for a new power systems engineer is a postgraduate degree such as an MS or Masters in Science degree which can lead to career advancement opportunities. The median pay for a power systems engineer is $85,370 a year.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook, overall employment of electrical engineers was expected to grow 7% from 2016 to 2026. About 10% of electrical engineers work for electric power generation, transmission, and distribution companies. They typically work in industries such as research and development, engineering services, manufacturing, telecommunications, and the federal government. Some important qualities to have as an electrical engineer include excellent concentration for keeping track of multiple design elements and technical characteristics when designing and developing complex electrical systems, writing skills for developing technical publications related to the equipment that they develop, and initiative for applying their knowledge to new tasks in the various projects they undertake.
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