A power plant operator operates the equipment used to produce electrical power. In addition to operation of the equipment, he or she also might perform maintenance and troubleshooting. The main focus of his or her job is to ensure that the plant is operating properly, safely and efficiently and to fix any problems as quickly as possible.
Most of this job involves operating power plant equipment. The equipment will vary depending on the type of plant and might involve natural gas, hydroelectric, fossil fuel or nuclear equipment. The operator might use computers, tools and electrical devices to operate the equipment that is used to generate power.
Some scientific theories and equipment remain the same in every type of power plant, and others are specific to the type of power being produced. This means that a power plant operator should know as much as possible about the specific equipment used in the plant. One way to accomplish this is by operator training. Many operators undergo constant and rigorous training in order to ensure accurate and safe operation.
Maintenance might be another aspect of the job. Performing maintenance on equipment is one way to ensure that the equipment stays in optimum working order. Maintenance items could range from repacking a valve to testing auto-start features of pumps. By performing required maintenance, this person helps keep the equipment running smoothly and ensures that it is ready for power output.
A power plant operator also might perform troubleshooting on the job. Sometimes equipment might not work properly or might break altogether. When this happens, the employee should be able to perform certain tests and other troubleshooting activities to figure out exactly what the problem is.
These employees generally work from a control room. This room contains the computers and other devices needed to run most power plant equipment. Control rooms generally contain several computers that monitor equipment, and a power plant operator uses these computers to make any necessary changes to the equipment.
Power plant operators usually will work a shift schedule of some sort, because power is needed at all times. Many power plants have a system in place for employees to rotate shifts in order for everyone to have equal time off and to share the less favored shifts. The work schedule also might involve rotating from day shifts to night shifts.