SuperBowl, Sandy and storms – microgrids needed in the USA

The Mercedes-Benz Superdome field is covered in partial darkness during a power outage in the NFL’s Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans Sunday. (Photo: Reuters, via

What do the SuperBowl, Superstorm Sandy and last weekend’s winter storms have in common?  They all resulted in power outages that affected millions of Americans.  While the stadium lighting shutdown in front of 111.3 million people watching the Baltimore Ravens beat the San Francisco 49ers on February 3rd was costly and embarrassing, reducing ratings by 3% year on year, the weather-related grid failures are the ones that cause real hardship and frustration.

Watching from across the pond, the frequency of major grid failures caused by the weather in the USA isn’t just a figment of our imagination.  Between just 2006 and 2009, the USA suffered 33 major grid failures, the vast majority of which were caused by bad weather.  In the same time period Europe suffered only 16 and the entire rest of the world only 20 failures, mostly attributable to substation and transmission line failures.  We doubt very much that the weather in the USA is that much worse than the rest of the world combined, so it is more likely that under-investment in smarter and more robust grid technology is resulting in weak networks that are susceptible to surges and weather events.

One of our favourite guys, Ian Chilvers at Optimised Power Solutions, points out that he have sorted the Superbowl problem with his intelligent minigrid solution, letting the game play on as the arena operated in isolation from main power grid problems.  Minigrids also hold the answer for sprawling grids susceptible to weather events – smaller more robust networks that can operate in isolation if one section is taken out, instead of an inevitable loss of power to thousands of households following a winter storm or hurricane.

Let’s hope by the time SuperBowl XLVIII rolls around, the word “minigrid” is top of the organiser’s list.

Categories: Smart Grid

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