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Making Power Line Infrastructure Improvements for the Super Bowl – New Jersey

Joseph Coupal - Thursday, January 30, 2014

Officials in New Jersey are working hard to ensure that the power does not go out in Sunday’s Super Bowl. No one wants a repeat of last year’s big game.

In addition to finding and fixing any electrical system defects that might cause an outage, workers have had to protect the power supply against the threat of an ice storm or other extreme winter weather too.

PSE&G has bolstered its infrastructure against bad weather and equipment failures. The upgrades include adding a power line to augment the two already in place to deliver power to the stadium complex. Each of the lines is capable of supplying the entire 12 megawatts of electricity that MetLife Stadium normally requires to power the lights and the rest of its standard power needs. In addition, the utility has positioned a backup mobile transformer less than a mile from the stadium, which can be deployed in case the normal circuitry that supplies the stadium fails.

New Jersey's stadium authority, which has responsibility for the electricity once it gets inside the complex, has upgraded its substation and taken steps to make sure everything works properly in the stadium itself. That included hiring an outside electricity construction consultant in an effort to spot and fix flaws.

Power engineering experts said that in some ways, the setting of the game—the first open-air venue in a cold-weather region to host the Super Bowl—actually makes it less likely that an electrical mishap will occur. MetLife doesn't have a massive air conditioning and heating system to draw huge amounts of electricity and add to the complexity of managing use.

Stadiums are particularly vulnerable to blackouts because they rely upon metal halide lights. While metal halide lamps are relatively efficient and produce bright light, they're sensitive to sudden drops in voltage.

In addition to checking wiring and equipment inside and outside the stadium, officials can guard against such disruptions by trimming tree branches that could fall on lines and cause short circuits, and by installing barriers to keep squirrels and other animals away from them.

Worries over a possible Super Bowl outage are symptomatic of a larger problem. Utilities have been spending money in recent years to modernize the grid and improve reliability.

But those improvements are being outpaced by our increasing dependence upon electric-powered gadgetry, the "always-on, always-connected society." As a result, people have become less tolerant and less patient when electrical power technology breaks down.

Even these big events have become more and more dependent upon things powered by electricity-the big replay screens, all of the electronic media at the game.

The worries about an outage dramatize a larger issue-the need to overhaul an aging electrical grid which was designed in the mid-20th century. We're putting more demand on it. We're stressing it in ways it was never designed to be handled. Power outages are happening every day in our homes, factories, and schools, but they're not getting as much attention as the Super Bowl.

For more information on improving power infrastructure, contact ElecComm.

National Geographic


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