Hydroelectric plant technicians monitor and control activities associated with hydropower generation.
Hydroelectricity is the most widely used form of renewable energy, accounting for 16 percent of global electricity generation – 3,427 terawatt-hours of electricity production in 2010, and is expected to increase about 3.1% each year for the next 25 years. The average cost of electricity from a hydroelectric plant larger than 10 megawatts is 3 to 5 U.S. cents per kilowatt-hour. Hydroelectricity is also a flexible source of electricity since hydroelectric plants can be ramped up and down very quickly to adapt to changing energy demands. Once a hydroelectric complex is constructed, the project produces no direct waste, and has a considerably lower output level of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) than fossil fuel powered energy plants.
Hydroelectric plant technicians main responsibility is to monitor hydroelectric power plant equipment operation and performance, as well as adjusting to performance specifications as necessary. They start, adjust, or stop generating units, operating valves, gates, or auxiliary equipment in hydroelectric power generating plants. They also identify or address malfunctions of hydroelectric plant operational equipment, such as generators, transformers, or turbines.
Those with hydroelectric plant technician jobs implement load or switching orders in hydroelectric plants, in accordance with specifications or instructions. They inspect water-powered electric generators or auxiliary equipment in hydroelectric plants to verify proper operation or to determine maintenance or repair needs. Hydroelectric plant technicians also install or calibrate electrical or mechanical equipment, such as motors, engines, switchboards, relays, switch gears, meters, pumps, hydraulics, or flood channels.
On a daily basis, those with hydroelectric plant technician jobs communicate status of hydroelectric operating equipment to dispatchers or supervisors. They maintain logs, reports, work requests, or other records of work performed in hydroelectric plants. They also maintain or repair hydroelectric plant electrical, mechanical, or electronic equipment, such as motors, transformers, voltage regulators, generators, relays, battery systems, air compressors, sump pumps, gates, or valves.
As part of their job, hydroelectric plant technicians need to operate high voltage switches or related devices in hydropower stations. They also operate hydroelectric plant equipment, such as turbines, pumps, valves, gates, fans, electric control boards, or battery banks. They take readings and record data such as water levels, temperatures, or flow rates. Hydroelectric plant technicians also perform testing and repairing or replacing electrical equipment, such as circuit breakers, station batteries, cable trays, conduits, or control devices. They also perform maintenance jobs such as changing oil, hydraulic fluid, or other lubricants to maintain condition of hydroelectric plant equipment.
Hydroelectric plant technicians work at hydroelectric power plants. When at work, they may experience extreme hot, cold, and unfavorable environmental conditions. Work may be performed during inclement weather. They are required to use proper safety equipment and protocols. Their work is performed around rotating equipment, in electrical switchyards exposed to high voltages, over water, in watercraft or on floating platforms, on concrete flooring and/or open grating, on steep inclines, and on various types of ladders and scaffolding. Heights may exceed 50 feet. Work may be performed in confined spaces such as storage tanks, oil circuit breakers, and station sumps. For most hydroelectric plant technicians, shift work is required as well as the ability to work overtime. Due to the remoteness of some hydro plants and other work locations, considerable time may be spent driving company vehicles to and from worksites.
To obtain a green job as a hydroelectric plant technician, it is usually require a high school diploma or GED. To work in this field it helps to have previous work-related skill, knowledge, or experience. Employees in these jobs are required anywhere from a few months to one year of working with experienced employees. A recognized apprenticeship program may be associated with these jobs. Some companies provide a paid hydro technician training program that prepares you to enter the higher level of hydroelectric plant technician once the program is completed.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates a bright outlook for hydroelectric plant technicians and expects employment of this field to grow about 2% percent from 2012 until 2022. The demand for hydroelectric plant technicians is expected to go up due to the increase in production of renewable energy. The BLS projected 4,500 hydroelectric plant technician job openings between 2012 and 2022, and noted 12,000 jobs are currently filled. Titles include hydroelectricity plant technicians and hydro technicians. The BLS further reports that the median annual wage for salaried hydroelectric plant technicians was $53,130 in 2012 with median hourly wage of $25.55. Across the US job market, the lowest 10% of hydroelectric plant technicians earned about $30,000 a year, and the top 10% earned about $70,000 a year. Hydroelectric plant technicians can receive the best compensation in Alaska, where they earn compensation, on average, of about $72,390. People in this job function are compensated at the highest average salary in Public Administration, where they get average pay levels of $63,880.