The 34 minutes of darkness during one of the most watched sporting events in the world has many people scratching their heads. How can a recently refurbished and upgraded stadium hosting such a major event end up in that situation? Would more investments in the “smart grid” have helped avoid this problem?
The short answer is maybe.
Until the reason for the partial blackout is clearly identified, it remains unknown if more accurate and agile sensors and systems could have helped avoid the immense hiccup. Thankfully the crowd stayed calm and the impact of the lights going out was little more than a short delay, an inconvenience to the players and an opportunity for sportscasters to test their ability to fill airtime unscripted.
What we do know is that a smarter grid helped keep a similar problem from occurring during the Orange Bowl in Florida a couple years ago. As Michael Grunwald from Time reported,
“[As] millions of Americans watched Stanford’s football team win the Orange Bowl. None of them knew that an aging transformer nearly overloaded while feeding power to the stadium, triggering voltage alerts that gave new meaning to the phrase red zone.
Thanks to high-tech equipment installed through a $200 million smart-grid grant to Florida Power & Light, transformers that used to be checked manually once a year were being monitored electronically every second. The new equipment detected the problem and diverted power elsewhere.”
While keeping the lights on at the Superbowl shouldn’t be the primary reason for us to encourage our utilities to invest in a smarter grid, it would be an added bonus. As we upgrade our systems across the continent, one small request from the Quinzee team: let’s upgrade to smart systems. We’d prefer to watch the players battling it out rather than staring into the dark sky and stretching.