Burgess: Could Smart Grid Technology Have Prevented the Superbowl Blackout?

Beyonce performs during the halftime show of the NFL Super Bowl XLVII football game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens Sunday, Feb. 3, 2013, in New Orleans. (Photo: AP)

Could smart grid technology have prevented the blackout that occurred at Super Bowl XLVII? Probably not, but it would have certainly reduced the duration of the power cut.

It is still unclear exactly what caused the power outage, which left much of the Superdome in darkness and led to a 34 minute delay to the game. Early suggestions that it may have been Beyoncé’s half time show have been denied as that ran on its own generator.

Entergy Corporation (NYSE: ETR), the energy utility that provides power to the stadium, along with SMG, the company who manages the stadium, have rather vaguely stated that a circuit breaker was switched when “a piece of equipment that is designed to monitor electrical load sensed an abnormality.”

Electricians then had to manually search for the fault before rebooting the system.

Smart grid technology, in the form of paired sensors working a two way digital communication between a central operating system and circuits in operations around the Superdome, would have either prevented the blackout, or isolated the fault and reapplied the electricity in a much shorter time frame; spectators may only have seen a flicker of the lights.

Rob Pratt, from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, suggests that smart grid technology would have tested the system within the stadium and identified fault and its location within seconds, directing electricians to the correct area instantly, if needed. He estimates that adding such a system would cost anywhere from $100,000 to $1 million for a venue like the Superdrome.

 

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