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Linemen who specialize in relay, power station, and substation work are known as power generation maintenance electricians.
Power generation maintenance electricians, or simply powerhouse technicians, basically work with the power that runs the nation.
They will handle the equipment that distributes and stores gigawatts of electrical current using…
- Specific skills necessary to handle them
- Specialized tools and equipment
They do this all the while ensuring to strictly follow safety protocols.
Below, you’ll learn more about the work powerhouse technicians do and other important information.
Phases of Electrical Production, Storage, and Distribution
Powerhouse technicians are categorized based on their ability to manage the three primary elements of electrical distribution and production.
Powerhouses a.k.a power plants or power stations are the places where alternating current (AC) is generated.
Here, a turbine spinning in a magnetic field will produce the voltage.
The turbine can produce up to 24,000 volts before sending to a step-up transformer, depending on the power station.
The step-up transformers will then increase the 24,000 volts to 500,000 volts.
Step-up transformers will transmit the volts through the high-voltage power lines and then deliver them to substations.
At the step-down substations, the high-voltage electricity is being transformed into a safer and more usable level.
Afterward, these will be distributed to homes and businesses of a community.
Relays help control the input and output of power as it is produced, distributed, and stored.
This is a switch that activates with a specific amount of current and is extremely specialized and high-voltage.
For instance, to avoid a circuit short from a power surge, you can install a relay that activates the circuit breaker when a fault is detected.
In the powerhouses and substations, a relay refers to a transformer differential relay.
It’s a protective relay that blocks a circuit breaker if the fault is detected, which prevents the transformer from damage.
Job Duties in Powerhouses and Substations
Powerhouse technicians in powerhouses and substations have similar responsibilities.
They mostly work on systems that transform voltage, either from higher to lower, or vice versa.
Powerhouse technicians handle electricity that travels from the production source to a stepping-up station where the voltage is increased by transformers.
The duties at the power generation phase include:
- Working with low- and medium-voltage motor control centers (MCCs)
- Isolating equipment for power outages
- Using trapped key interlocking systems
- Rerouting power to better supply the grid
- Working with many kinds of actuators
- Mechanical work with transformers for varying levels of voltage
- Working with three-phase transformers
- Switchboard testing and maintenance
- Working with buck and boost transformers
Both stepping-up and step-down stations use the same components.
These are substations with transformers working in opposite directions effectively.
Electricians working here handle transformers and the relays that protect them.
Their duties include:
- Cleaning, refilling, and maintaining oil coolant
- Cleaning high-voltage circuits
- Maintaining and repairing switchgear and insulation
- Fuzzing to test relays for high voltage during maintenance
- Maintaining and repairing battery systems
- Maintaining and repairing bus units
- Circuit breaker maintenance and testing
To perform these tasks, they need knowledge and understanding of the following :
- Electromotive force
- Details about transformers
- Electromagnetic induction
- Phase displacement
- Flux saturation levels and CT saturation
- Grounding, ground testing, and feedback
Licensing Requirements for Powerhouse Technicians
The licensing requirements are set by jurisdictions at the local and state levels.
Some jurisdictions require that you meet specific qualifications, while others need certification as an industrial electrician.
To find out the specific requirements in your area, consult with the local regulatory agency.
You may also reach out to a local chapter of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW).
In general, the licensing process of electricians specializing in power station, substation, and relay installations or repairs has three levels:
You will take on an apprenticeship program to receive education and supervised real-world training.
The program will run for four to six years.
Upon completion, you will sit for an exam to move up to the journeyman level.
At this level, you’ll work and complete specific tasks with little to no supervision.
After two to four years, you can take an exam to move up to the master level.
Here, you can lead projects as a foreman.
You can also work on all types of jobs within the limits of the profession more independently.
Professional Certifications for Powerhouse Technicians
Several national organizations offer powerhouse, substation, and relay certifications.
Some jurisdictions require this as a part of the licensing process, while others may not.
Regardless, having one will serve as a professional certification that gives you an edge over others.
The following organizations will issue such certification:
- National Center for Construction and Education Research (NCCER) for power generation maintenance electricians
- AVO Training Institute for substation maintenance electricians
- AVO Training Institute for relay technicians
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported the following average salary information from 2011 to 2015:
- 2011 – $65,950
- 2012 – $67,380
- 2013 – $68,270
- 2014 – $70,110
- 2015 – $72,450
The data proves that this electrician specialization became one of the highest-paying jobs in the U.S.
Meanwhile, here are the top-paying states as of 2015:
- Average – $91,790
- Top 10% – $117,880
- Average – $87,060
- Top 10% – $113,210
- Average – $85,610
- Top 10% – $109,600
- Average – $85,290
- Top 10% – $101,890
- North Dakota
- Average – $85,120
- Top 10% – $96,700
Below, you’ll find the salary information being offered to licensed powerhouse technicians as of July 2016 for your reference:
- Relay Test Technician with the Modesto Irrigation District in California – $70,990 to $95,472
- Substation Electrician with the Bonneville Power Administration (federal) in The Dalles, Oregon and Wenatchee, Washington – $91,250
- Relay Electrician with Seattle City Light in Washington State – $100,922 to $110,261
- High Voltage Transformer/Substation Electrician with the University of Iowa in Iowa City – $50,968
- Supervisor of Energy Systems with Rochester Public Utilities in Minnesota – $80,307 to $118,096
The BLS reported the following industries with the highest level of employment:
- Local government agencies – 3,120 employees
- Company and enterprise management – 620 employees
- Electric power generation, transmission, and distribution – 15,060 employees
- Federal government agencies – 590 employees
- Commercial and industrial machinery and equipment – 760 employees
The primary employers in the major market in the U.S. are as follows:
- Jacksonville Electric Authority (JEA)
- Link Staffing Services
- Tampa Armature Works (TAW)
- Seminole Electric Group
- The city of Jacksonville
- Electric Power Systems, International
- Great Southwestern Construction, Inc.
- Management Recruiters of Indianapolis
- Gaylor, Inc.
- National Field Services
- Critical Electric Systems Group (CESG)
- Schneider Electric
- San Diego
- Northrop Grumman
- VSE Corporation
- San Diego Gas and Electric
- Electric Power Systems, International
- Human Potential Consultants
- New York City
- Clean Energy
- TRC Companies
- Essential Power LLC
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