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Are (power) electrical engineering questions on topic for EE.SE? If so, should the wording of in the "On-topic" FAQ and other places be changed to reflect this?

The community acceptance of questions like How do transposition towers in transmission lines work?, as measured by upvotes, appears to indicate that power electrical engineering questions are well received by the community here. A high-rep user also commented in the past:

I think that (high-power) electrical, electronics, and computer engineers could coexist quite happily on a single Stack Exchange site.

Yet the "on-topic FAQ" seems to imply that only electronics design questions are permissible. To wit (emphasis mine):

What topics can I ask about here?

This site is for electronics and electrical engineering professionals, students, and enthusiasts. We ask and answer questions about electrical and electronics engineering topics, which include electronics, physical computing, and those working with microcontrollers, Arduinos and embedded systems. We feel the best Electronics Design questions have a schematic, links to pertinent datasheets or some source code in them, but if your question generally covers …

  • a specific electronics design problem
  • the theory and simulation of electromagnetic forces
  • a communication scheme
  • the writing of firmware for bare-metal or RTOS applications

...

This also occurs in the "close vote" dialog:

enter image description here

Are (high-power) electrical engineering questions on topic here or not? If they are on topic, can the site FAQ's and other documentation be changed to reflect this?


Note this would obviate the need for a separate Electrical Power Engineering.SE. I created this Area51 proposal after reading the EE.SE on-topic FAQ which implied that electrical power engineering wouldn't be on topic for EE.SE.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I would agree that we need an "includes but isn't limited to" statement in the FAQ, but this is too esoteric to need it's own line. I don't think the list in the FAQ was ever meant to be a checklist, so much as a representative sample. \$\endgroup\$ – Scott Seidman Sep 25 '13 at 21:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ Whatever, this site is not related with code compliance, which is a natural practice on "Engineering". This site is more for electronics, and... well, power transmission as far as they are dealt through electronics is on topic... \$\endgroup\$ – Brethlosze Dec 8 '17 at 4:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ @hyprfrcb: That's a rather narrow view. It's also not a view shared by other contributors. See, for example, Olin's answer below. Power engineering questions can co-exist with electronics questions - we're more similar than different. \$\endgroup\$ – Li-aung Yip Dec 9 '17 at 3:36
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I have always viewed them as on-topic here. I can recall a number of questions on power transmission lines and the like, and I don't remember any objections and certainly didn't object myself.

I think the reason these questions are largely on topic is because the same theory ultimately is used to explain and analyze both signal and power applications. Some of the body of knowledge, especially when you get to commercial-scale power generation and distribution, may be different, but with the underlying theory being the same I find these questions relevant and try to answer when I can.

There is also a lot of cross-over from electrical engineering to electric power engineering. Ordinary electronics are required in the control and measurement parts of high power systems, so a good EE must have some knowledge of the high power stuff he might be measuring or controller. Also, at what voltage and current would a motor driver, for example, become about electrical power instead of electronics? It is better for them both to belong here.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I agree that there is a lot of common ground and that both power electrical and electronics questions can be asked here. However the FAQ doesn't reflect this - it would suggest that only electronics questions are on topic. I believe this discourages knowledgeable electrical power engineers from joining the site. This may be a reason why there are so few power engineers here! This could be rectified by editing the "On-topic FAQ" to explicitly allow such questions. \$\endgroup\$ – Li-aung Yip Sep 25 '13 at 14:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ What about questions about electrical codes and legal requirements? An important part of power engineering, but (in my opinion) off-topic here. \$\endgroup\$ – markrages Sep 25 '13 at 14:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ @markrages: I don't know if there's a consensus about whether electrical codes and legal requirements are on topic on EE.SE - hence why I asked! If such questions are on topic, then this should be made clear in the FAQ. If such questions aren't on topic, I propose a new site. I suppose some vigorous community discussion is required as to which would be more appropriate. \$\endgroup\$ – Li-aung Yip Sep 25 '13 at 14:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ @mark: Electrical codes around the world have many commonalities because they all try to solve the same problems. If the question is highly specific then too localized would apply, but otherwise it is useful for all of us to see how things are done around the world and what parts of our local codes are common elsewhere and what parts are local details. We haven't been flooded with such questions, so I don't see a problem here. \$\endgroup\$ – Olin Lathrop Sep 25 '13 at 15:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ @OlinLathrop Too localized is not longer a reason, SE has decided that per country questions need to not be closed. \$\endgroup\$ – Kortuk Sep 25 '13 at 16:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ On further thought, the answer to a question about electrical code should involve the underlying principles. I.e. a question about "What is the minimum size cable required by Australian Standards?" shouldn't be answered like "Use a 10mm² cable because AS/NZS 3008 says so!", but rather "The size of cable required is determined by considering the following factors..." When answered in this way, it would be of wider interest, and "too localized" wouldn't apply. \$\endgroup\$ – Li-aung Yip Sep 25 '13 at 16:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Li-aungYip Unfortunately code compliace is engineering too. But this site is not about engineering but about electronics. \$\endgroup\$ – Brethlosze Dec 8 '17 at 4:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ @hyp: Code compliance can be on topic too, if asked properly. \$\endgroup\$ – Olin Lathrop Dec 8 '17 at 13:04
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I think most such questions will relate back to design well enough. In the case you pointed out, "how does this work?" is really "how does this design function?" or "why was this designed that way?".

Note that "high-power" is a current (though not used very often) tag here. I think in my short time here, I've seen a power systems question or two received quite well. I think its fine.

The low traffic in the area might be because as a ratio, not many participants are involved in the area, and perhaps more to the point, somebody in high power engineering who needs to ask basic questions on a Q/A oriented forum, (ahem,...trying to be delicate) might reconsider their approach to their training before implementing high power systems.

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    \$\begingroup\$ high-power generally seems to refer to high-power electronics, i.e. 100W, as opposed to power engineering, which is 100kW or 100 MW. :) Most power systems questions seem to be tagged with grid, three-phase, or similar. \$\endgroup\$ – Li-aung Yip Sep 25 '13 at 12:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ I just referred to the high-power tag because it's language that you used in your last paragraph. With 2 uses and no description, I'd say its hard to say what it refers to. There's also a high-voltage tag with many more hits \$\endgroup\$ – Scott Seidman Sep 25 '13 at 12:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ "I think most such questions will relate back to design well enough" - the issue isn't about whether the question is about design or not. The issue is that the EE.SE FAQ states that this is a site for electronics design, as opposed to electrical design or electrical and electronic design. If applied literally, the FAQ's list of acceptable topics would exclude power engineering entirely. That clearly isn't the case, so the FAQ is inaccurate and may need to be re-worded. \$\endgroup\$ – Li-aung Yip Sep 25 '13 at 12:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ Even if the FAQ were applied literally, doesn't "the theory and simulation of electromagnetic forces" cover it? \$\endgroup\$ – Scott Seidman Sep 25 '13 at 13:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ To that particular question about line transposition, maybe. But if I were to ask a question like "What is an expulsion drop-out fuse?" or "How much overcurrent input can a protection relay withstand?" then that wouldn't be covered. \$\endgroup\$ – Li-aung Yip Sep 25 '13 at 14:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ Those are both clearly on topic here. You would not get any off-topic close request. \$\endgroup\$ – Scott Seidman Sep 25 '13 at 14:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ Yes, by community consensus, these questions are on-topic - but you wouldn't know it from the FAQ! Hence my asking if the FAQ needs to be updated to match the community consensus. To clarify, there are probably working electrical power engineers who are not joining the site because they are discouraged by the FAQ. :) This conversation is getting long, should we move to chat? \$\endgroup\$ – Li-aung Yip Sep 25 '13 at 14:09
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There is also the additional fact (as pointed out during earlier discussions about renaming the site) that "Electrical Engineering" has different meanings in different countries. In certain countries if you were looking for Distribution questions you would automatically search for EE and if you were looking for low voltage, digital analog you'd use a different classification. So that means you will have a different catchment geographically ... Since distribution, transmission and high voltage is still a very active part of certain universities, and with the focus on renewable energy increasing, I'd say fostering those questions here will make the site broader and more appealing.

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Basically, EE covers any power electrical that DIY the Home Improvement Stack would not cover. So from the power generating plant up to the demarc point on a house :D

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