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What Does a Hydropower Engineer Do?

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  • Written By: Jessica F. Black
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Images By: William Warby, Harvey Barrison, Blackcurrent
  • Last Modified Date: 02 December 2016
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A hydropower engineer is usually directly involved with the design, construction, and maintenance of hydropower facilities, which include hydropower plants, dams, and other water conduction locations. Daily routines at a hydropower facility are usually overseen by a hydropower engineer because he or she is generally responsible for ensuring the safety of employees. This may include educating employees on occupational safety, reviewing and reporting mechanical defects at the plant, and providing safety training for employees and other professionals. Aside from enforcing safety regulations, a hydropower engineer is involved in the planning and implementation of designs of the plant and/or hydropower construction.

Hydropower engineering emerged in the late 1800s and was introduced by Lestor Pelton, who was interested in mining during America's gold rush. While exploring and studying mining on the west coast of the United States, Pelton constructed a water wheel to provide power to the tools and transportation systems of the mining industry. This renewable power source became increasingly popular and the position of hydropower engineer grew rapidly. Since the late 1800s, many adaptations of the water wheel have emerged, but these designs are still primarily based upon Pelton's design. Engineers in this field have spent the last century adjusting the original renewable power source model to provide locations with a more efficient model, which is still in need of future adjustments.

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This energy concept is largely popular today because it is environmentally friendly, but there are still several imperfections that a hydropower engineer is required to work on. The hydropower industry is constantly evolving, and this career entails coming up with innovations that will make this energy source less expensive and less threatening due to flooding. Due to the complex nature of this career, most companies or government agencies require that a hydropower engineer has at least a bachelor's degree, preferably in civil engineering, and several years of experience.

Job duties in this profession may vary greatly depending on the facility that he or she works for, but designing and construction is by far this position's most important tasks. A hydropower engineer must assist in the construction of a hydropwer machine while staying within a given budget and also make sure that the product is in accordance with all legal guidelines. The design process is highly complex, and he or she should be extremely familiar with a variety of design software, other hydropower projects, and all modern technology used in the construction of these facilities.

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