About the Program
This Bachelor of Science degree program is designed to train individuals to install, modify, maintain, troubleshoot, and perform functional tests on electrical grid systems equipment for employment in the fields of electric distribution, transmission and generation. This includes grounding grids, power transformers, circuit breakers, lightning arresters, switches, and various protective relay equipment including electromechanical and microprocessor based hardware.
Opportunities for Electrical System Technologists
Many challenges face the electrical power industry today. Are there enough resources to generate enough electrical energy continue to meet the demand? Can this goal be achieved simultaneously with reducing adverse impacts to the environment? There is not only pressure on the industry to conserve existing energy resources and develop new sources; it must accomplish this in the face of an aging workforce that will need to be replaced and having to balance the availability of financial resources with the need for capital improvement.
Technologies are currently being developed to address these challenges. The electrical grid is making strides towards becoming a smart grid that will operate more automatically. The smart grid that is evolving will reduce the number and duration of outages, will facilitate the use of renewable energy sources and customer-owned energy sources, and will control line parameters on a more continuous basis to promote higher efficiency through reduced losses. The feasibility of meeting these objectives is made possible by the ability to collect enormous amounts of data about electrical distribution systems at numerous locations on the grid and communicate that data to operators at substations and energy control centers.
The electrical industry will need skilled workers to monitor this information and make intelligent decisions based on it. Skilled workers will be needed to protect equipment and people without causing unnecessary outages, ensure line voltages and power factor are where they should be, direct switching orders, and integrate more and more customer-owned generation equipment into their company’s distribution system. The Electrical Systems Technology Program at Alpena Community College is designed to impart these skills to its students. Students will learn fundamental electrical theory of DC and AC circuits, power systems, and three phase power. They will be introduced to software packages that model power systems and allow them to perform “what-if” analyses and calculate key parameters of distribution systems. They will also be introduced to modern protection and communication equipment and provided opportunities to use it.
A significant percentage of the workforce in the electrical power distribution industry is nearing retirement age creating job opportunities as relay technicians, system controllers, and system operators. The American Public Power Association states, “Public power utilities employ thousands of people in a variety of jobs that combine public service and a technologically forward-looking industry. New technologies are being developed to generate, deliver, and use electricity; utilities are undertaking new environmental initiatives to meet and exceed customer expectations; and public power systems are becoming fast-paced public enterprises with competitive salaries. Many dynamic career opportunities are available for women and men with diverse educational backgrounds – from high school diplomas to advanced degrees.” The Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows in May 2014 that workers classified as Power Distributors and Dispatchers earned an average salary of $78,060.