Town Talk: Power plant staff and what they do

Each position in the Electric Production Department has different responsibilities to keep the Power Plant operating efficiently and safely. The Power Plant operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Sixteen employees are currently required to operate the Power Plant:

• 4 Boiler Operators, 1 Relief Boiler Operator

• 4 Plant Operators, 1 Relief Plant Operator

• 1 Chief Engineer, 1 Assistant Chief Engineer

• 1 Plant Mechanic, 1 Maintenance I Worker, 1 Maintenance II Worker

• 1 Lab Results Analyst

This article concentrates on the Plant Operator and Relief Plant Operator positions.

Plant Operators and Relief Plant Operators require a minimum of a Minnesota First Class A Engineer’s license. The Plant Operators and Relief Plant Operator oversee the entire Plant operation from the boilers, generators, steam systems, (district energy and process steam), combustion turbines, electric distribution and transmission, and the SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) system. This is the back-bone of the transmission and distribution system.

Through SCADA, the Operators have the ability to monitor loads, breaker operations, outages, and maintenance through this computerized model of New Ulm’s electrical system. SCADA also allows the Plant Operators in conjunction with the Electric Distribution line workers to restore power in affected areas. From the Power Plant, Operators can remotely control equipment in our other substations through this system.

The Operators and Relief Operator are an integral piece of the workings of the Power Plant as their knowledge of the Plant and its equipment is vital to keeping the electrical and steam systems operating smoothly. As problems arise they are the first to notice and take action, be it inside the Plant or on the Electric Distribution side. Their quick responses have greatly reduced outage times.

The Plant Operators and Relief Operator are also the after-hour dispatching staff. If a customer calls in to report an electric outage, gas smells, water leak, etc., they are the people who will dispatch the appropriate department staff to alleviate the problems. In some instances an event may result in a high number of calls to report the outage. The Plant Operator will answer them as quickly as possible after he/she has made sure the equipment in the plant is secure.

The Plant Operators and Relief Operator take hourly readings to assess the operation of the equipment on line and log the readings to ensure the equipment’s performance is captured. All procedures used to operate the generators are documented and available for the Operators to review.

The Relief Plant Operator fills in when one of the Plant Operators is on vacation or sick. The Relief Plant Operator also works the relief shift on Fridays, and otherwise assists with the maintenance activities in the plant.

Editor’s Note: The City of New Ulm presents a weekly column highlighting activities in different departments in the city government. Once a month the city will answer questions from readers. Questions on New Ulm city issues can be sent to