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How do I Become a Power Systems Engineer?

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  • Written By: Elva K.
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 03 December 2016
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In order to become a power systems engineer and work for a power generating company, you can take a variety of paths. For example, to become a power systems engineer, you can go for an associate's degree. Or, if you want more training, you could pursue a bachelor's degree in power system engineering. Or, by contrast, you could get a bachelor's degree in engineering from an ABET accredited program, work for two years, and then get a certificate of specialization in power system engineering.

Power system engineers typically work either directly for power generation companies or for suppliers, contractors or consultants who do the servicing for power stations. They also work at manufacturing companies that have high voltage and substations, such as larger chemical plants. Power system engineers are involved in the design, construction, and maintenance of power supply-related infrastructure. In addition, power systems engineers have responsibility for the safety and health needs of the public at large and their colleagues.

Coursework for this field includes all aspects of power station work. For example, to become a power systems engineer requires coursework such as engineering and high voltage, electric power qualities, and photovoltaic power. Coursework could also include topics such as economics in power systems operation and the protection of power systems.

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Higher voltage classes involve explanation of how high voltage and current are generated and measured. It is not uncommon for students to actually go to companies and do lab testing with high voltage. Courses involving electric power help students who want to become a power systems engineer learn about various types of problems with power quality, sags or overvoltage, principles pertaining to the control of harmonics, and improving power quality.

Photovoltaic power coursework includes discussion of the physics or characteristics of solar cell technology, alternative energy sourcing control, array design, methods of storing energy, code compliance, and grid intertie system-related issues. Economic-related coursework focuses on economic loading pertaining to thermal plants, the evaluation of matrix element, extension of loading criterion to be inclusive of system loss, and hydro plants' effect on economics.

Coursework pertaining to the protection of power systems focuses on protective relaying, solid state repaying methods pertaining to high voltage transmissions, power line carriers, circuit breaker interruptions, synchronizing, and relaying. Topics such as the stability of a power system, network analysis, synchronous machine reactance, and surge phenomena as it occurs in power systems are also addressed in power systems engineering coursework.

In school, in addition to academic learning, if you want to become a power systems engineer, you must develop the ability to learn quickly, understand how motors, transformers and generators work, and understand three-phase theory. Project management skills must be acquired. Also, you must learn to have good interpersonal skills because power systems engineers have to work with everyone from jointers who put cables together to farmers who own the land around substations.

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