Charles Williams: Teaching is Learning

Sept. 19, 2012
The best way to learn something is to teach it, according to Charles Williams, senior technical systems consultant at S&C Electric Co.

The best way to learn something is to teach it, according to Charles Williams, senior technical systems consultant at S&C Electric Co. Williams has continued to learn throughout his career as a power systems engineer, not only from teaching courses but also from field work, research, and industry organizations. His career has included 14 years of field engineering and operations and 19 years of high-level, technical engineering work.

Now, as a senior consultant at S&C, he makes presentations on reliability and distribution automation and teaches courses on power quality.

“Reliability is the hot topic today,” Williams said. “It is what customers perceive as the quality of service. There are many drivers for this issue today including both customers and regulators. It is very important to understand how faults occur, how to develop a program that optimizes mixes of prevention and mitigation measures to produce the required improvements in reliability at the lowest possible cost.”

Williams teaches “Strategies and Planning for Improving Distribution Asset Performance” from S&C Power Systems Services for on-site customization. This two-day seminar is designed for those involved in asset management, planning, design, and operation of distribution systems. The course is offered as two related, but independent, modules. The first module provides an overview of various distribution system strategies and why they are important tools for the asset management function. The second module starts with a brief overview of these strategies and then provides a more detailed review of the most significant distribution planning functions. These functions include capacity planning, voltage control, reliability, and power quality.

S&C Electric Co. is a global provider of equipment and services for electric power systems. Founded in 1911, the Chicago-based company designs and manufactures switching and protection products for electric power transmission and distribution. The Power Systems Services seminars and workshops help electric utilities and commercial and industrial power users remain competitive in a difficult marketplace.

Williams is located in Orlando, Florida. He actually moved to Miami at age 2 and has lived in Florida all of his life. He studied electrical engineering at the University of Florida where he majored in power systems.

“I decided about the time I entered college that I wanted to work in the electric power business,” Williams said. “My father worked in the business, and I was always interested in technical things. Engineering was always high on my list of interests, although I had to study hard in school. It didn’t come easily.”

Even though the topic may not have come easily in school, Williams has succeeded in his career at gaining experience, solving problems and supervising other engineers. He joined S&C after retiring early from Progress Energy Florida (formerly Florida Power Corp.) where he was principal engineer, distribution power quality and reliability. He worked at Florida Power for 34 years in the distribution arena, the first half in field engineering and operations. “This was a 24/7 job and gave me extremely valuable practical experience,” Williams said.

In his first year, he had the opportunity to go to lineman training and learn pole climbing and line work. “This knowledge of what it took to build lines was invaluable in my career of designing distribution line extensions, dispatching trouble calls and working distribution restoration and field problem solving,” he said.

He moved to the distribution staff group after about 15 years and concentrated on material and construction standards and technical problem solving on the system. “I became the go-to guy for technical problem solving,” Williams said. “A key problem to solve was development of an optimized reliability improvement program to achieve SAIDI improvement goals at minimum cost.”

He became involved in several IEEE standards groups and industry organizations such as Southeastern Electric Exchange and EEI. He engaged his interest in lightning when he participated in the IEEE Surge Protective Devices committee, which writes arrester standards and overvoltage protection guides. He also participated in the EPRI Rocket Triggered Lightning research program as a utility technical advisor.

Power quality is another area of interest for Williams. He has studied this topic extensively, earning CPQ certification from the AEE and gaining experience in monitoring and diagnosing and resolving PQ problems.

Academically, he taught Introduction to Power Systems at the University of Central Florida, and has participated and supported the power engineering program and laboratory work on electric power research topics at the University of Florida. He has also taught courses on reliability, power quality, transformer theory and applications and stray voltage at S&C.

When he is in the classroom, Williams stresses that safety must be the no. 1 priority in the workplace, be it in the office or in the field. “Also – when all is said and done, it is the friendships and relationships of the people (employees and customers) you have met and worked with that you take with you,” he said.

Williams does enjoy the relationships and the problem solving for customers, as well as the variety involved. “It is always challenging and never boring.”

Williams realizes the importance of the industry he works in. “The electric utility industry is an industry that affects everyone in our community and country. There are few areas of work that impact so many people,” he said.

“What we do every day matters to everyone. It is important to know that what we do makes a difference in the day-to-day lives of those around us. One has only to see the faces of those who have been out of power for a long period after a major storm to know that what we do matters.”

As Williams continues to learn by teaching and problem solving, he also reads technical engineering articles and magazines in his spare time. Otherwise, he rides his bicycle and attends county music concerts whenever possible.

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