Energy Engineers: lighting the world

Every time we switch on a light or boil a kettle or run a hot bath, we are receiving the work of power engineers. Electrical engineers design, develop, test, and supervise the manufacture of turbines’ electrical components, including electric motors, machinery controls, lighting and wiring, generators, communications systems, and electricity transmission systems – in essence all the elements of generation, transmission and distribution of electrical power.

Building on a long history, energy engineering is a vibrant and challenging discipline. Essentially they are responsible for maintaining large systems whose availability and reliability are critical to society’s ability to function and develop. The increase in demand for power – in tandem with environmental and economical constraints and the decline of fossil fuels – poses significant challenges to power engineers as they face both the future and a growing global human population.

The work spectrum of energy engineers

  • Power engineering is often analysed along three components: generation, transmission and distribution.
  • Power engineers who work on generation will be involved in converting various resources into electrical power such as coal, natural gas, hydro-power, nuclear power, solar and wind power.
  • Power engineers that work on transmission are in charge of moving power from the power station where the power is generated to the location of the customer. They make up large teams who build, develop and maintain networks connecting power generators with the users of that power – known as the power grid.
  • Engineers at utility companies are commonly tasked with responsibilities such as:
    projecting future power needs and planning changes to power systems accordingly; maintaining and updating generators; designing transmission towers and lines; determining routes for distribution lines; monitoring and balancing distribution systems.

Innovation in renewable energy and power engineering

Storage solutions:

As the world makes greater use of renewable energy, electrical engineers must become more innovative in how this energy is produced, stored and delivered.

  • One of the most crucial issues is the need for consistent power output even when weather conditions are problematic. To eventually relinquish carbon-based sources, communities must be able to rely on green energy at all hours in all seasons. At least that’s the ultimate dream. It’s therefore essential to pair renewable energy generation with new technologies for high-capacity storage to allow for continuous supply and reserves.
  • Lithium-ion batteries, already used in electric vehicles and many electronic devices, appear poised to meet the growing need for energy storage over the next several years. Engineers are vastly expanding battery capacity, while reducing manufacturing costs to make the technology increasingly practical for widespread use.

Power grid development:

Electrical engineers working in renewable energy transmission and power grid development must address a wide range of issues, including:

  • expanding and upgrading high-voltage transmission lines, and choosing sites for new construction that minimises environmental impact.
  • accurately forecasting the demand for power and ensuring facilities have the flexibility and storage capabilities to meet those needs.
  • determining the best approaches to convert renewable energy into electricity efficiently and reliably.
  • safely handling the flow of power from generation facilities through the grid.

Smart grids:

The movement toward smart grids, which employ digital technology to monitor power use and collect data about transmission and distribution, is a key factor in enhancing sustainability. By reshaping the grid to operate more efficiently and adapt quickly to changes in consumer demand, paves the way for wider use of renewable energy. Highly responsive smart grids are better suited than traditional systems to handle the variations in power supply that may result from a switch to renewable sources.

Microgrids:

  • These systems are capable of operating autonomously, allowing a specific area to use power independently from the traditional electrical grid. Even when an outage occurs in the broader system, a microgrid continues to generate power locally until broader service is restored.
  • This technology is invaluable in emergency situations like natural disasters, but it can also contribute to green energy initiatives.
  • Microgrids are more cost-effective and less wasteful.
  • They offer an environmentally friendly alternative by drawing on renewable energy sources, such as solar, biomass or wind power.

It takes advanced technical knowledge and creative problem-solving to help revolutionise energy generation, transmission, distribution and consumption. Electrical engineering experts who understand the principles behind the latest in power systems, energy conversion, and smart power grids, can excel in careers on the cutting-edge of renewable power.

Get in Outsource Engineers to handle your project

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OutEng is setting new trends and standards in an agile, trust-based business style that is taking the engineering environment by storm. Across a multitude of cost-effective engineering and project services, you can expect:

  • solid expertise and experience.
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  • well-informed professionals who are up to date with the latest research.

To find out more, visit: www.outeng.co.za

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