Power Systems Engineering

General Overview

Power systems engineering is a field of electrical engineering that focuses on the generation, distribution, uses, maintenance and control of electrical power. Power systems engineering often looks at large scale industrial systems such as the generation and distribution of power nationally and globally. Much of the industry utilises the theories of basic electrical engineering. Many theories and jobs roles are involved in the distribution phase of power systems engineering. This is because energy is produced and supplied in direct current however it is much more efficient to distribute in long distances through alternating current. This requires a lot of systems to be put in place and maintenance and control of such systems.

 

Power systems engineering, even as a sub-field is still a very broad subject with many areas of specialisation in terms of roles and responsibilities. This is because it deals with the largest machine on earth - the grid. The grid encompasses the generation, transmission, distribution and supply of electricity through a single machine. Additionally, to understand the fundamental principles of electrical engineering, power systems engineers must the machinery and devices that perform a specific function to allow the grid to function continuously without any issues to end consumer. They must also be aware of new technologies such as renewable technologies and how these can be incorporated effectively and continuously to the grid. Depending on the engineer's area of specialism, they must also have an appreciation of computational design and analysis principles if they go down the systems design route or a hands-on approach to work if they go down the site/commissioning route. These are just 2 examples of many routes a power systems engineer can go down but whatever the pathway, they must be able to understand the problems that arise in the power systems industry and an effective solution.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A 3 Phase Substation in use and attached to the grid following design, construction and commisioning. Source: www.abb.com

The history of power systems engineering stems from standard electrical engineering however power systems as a field didn’t develop until the late 1800’s when the first power stations were built. The first power station utilised water wheels to produce AC power and supply this to a variety of lamps. Following this development, various types of power stations were built to supply different components with larger load requirements. However, there was a large issue that many of these stations only produced DC power, which cannot be stepped up or down easily. This drove the innovation for transformers, a device which is used to step up or down voltages and currents allowing electrical distribution across much further distances. Over the next 20 - 30 years, power stations and switchgear (including transformers) rapidly developed allowing electricity to be supplied across vast distances to many different people and businesses. More recent developments have included smart maintenance and control systems through the use of powerful computer systems. This has ultimately lead to the implementation / idealisation of the smart grid.

Required Knowledge

Skills and Expertise

  • Comprehensive knowledge of electrical and electronic engineering theories and the machines / components that make up the field.

  • Understanding of how multiple systems link together as a larger system and what each system does. I.e. Knowledge of power generation and distributions systems and how they link together to form a part of the grid.

  • Comprehensive knowledge of project management and good communication skills to interact with multiple suppliers.

  • Good hands-on skills to make changes on site when required.

  • Strong level of understanding for health and safety especially for working on dangerous sites and working at heights or in enclosed spaces.  

  • Understanding of how switchgear / power generation machines are built and what specific components’ functions are.

 

Software Understanding

  • CAD packages (E.g. CATIA, Solidworks, Autocad, Inventor, PTC Creo)

  • Word processing, spreadsheets and presentations (E.g. MS Word, MS Excel, MS Powerpoint; Google Docs, Sheets and Slides)

  • Understanding of non-destructive testing software and its output results.

  • Overview of electronic circuit design software (MultiSim).

Example Jobs
  • Site Technician

  • Commissioning Engineer

  • Substation Layout Engineer

Institutions

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