Dealing With Power Outages in Sports Venues

The Super Bowl is an annual event many football fans look forward to, often referred to as the biggest sporting event of the year. But in 213, after a half-time show that featured extravagant lighting and video effects, an abnormality in the power system triggered an automatic shutdown causing a power outage in the 73,000-seat stadium.

Now informally known as the “Blackout Bowl,” the power outage caused a 34-minute delay, leaving millions of TV viewers in the dark. Power outages in sporting events aren’t uncommon. A World Cup game between Argentina and Brazil was forced to be called off due to a power grid failure, leaving more than 25,000 fans disappointed. 

Effect of Power Outages in Sports

Sporting events require huge energy demands to power lights, stadium features, food and drink booths, billboards and more. However, a power grid collapse can cause a chain reaction of problems for all parties involved. The Super Bowl that saw the power outage also saw its rating fall below the two previous years’ ratings. Advertisers did not see returns on their 60-second ads, which companies often pay upward of $10 million for. Paid spectators were also frustrated when escalators and credit card machines stopped working for the remainder of the game, negatively affecting both the organizers and the fans. 

In a sports management study, it was found that 80% of fans have eaten at least a hot dog at a sporting event in the past year. Combine those sales with the profit margin of up to 90% on drinks, and you can see the potential for lost revenue in the event of a power grid failure.

The canceled World Cup match between Argentina and Brazil illustrates these missed added revenue opportunities through ticket sales, food, beverage and more—reducing the game’s profit margin. 

The Movement Toward Renewable Energy

Currently, many sports arenas use diesel engines as their main energy source. However, diesel engines are vulnerable to power outages, and as fuel prices continue to increase, the cost to purchase and maintain diesel engines becomes more expensive. In addition, diesel is a major pollutant, emitting particulate matter from soot.

Renewable energy is a cleaner alternative, and with prices for Solar PV energy decreasing, it is a competitive alternative to conventional sources. Implementing a Battery Energy Storage System (BESS) alongside a solar energy source can help optimize its energy expenditure.

Vienna Zhou, CEO of battery energy storage company TROES Corp., said “With the COVID-19 pandemic dwindling down and sports arenas reopening doors for fans, energy storage is the future to create greater reliability in the sports-entertainment business. Not only will this reduce the risk of power outages but also help sports teams push an eco-friendly movement.”

This more competitive alternative is beginning to see mainstream sports attention as AFC Ajax, a Dutch Football club, implemented a battery energy storage system into their stadium in 2018.

Henk van Raanu, director of innovation at AFC Ajax, expressed his delight: “[the] arena is assured of a considerable amount of power, even during an outage ... [as] a result, the stadium will contribute to a stable Dutch energy grid.” 

The transition into battery energy storage is impactful due to the ability to charge the batteries using renewable sources like solar, hydro and wind, and discharging the batteries when electricity is most needed, notably during a sporting game. Energy storage can provide peak-shaving to lower costs and provide sustainable energy throughout the day, and enables the ability to provide backup power in the case of a power outage. Unlike other backup storage, such as a diesel generator, a BESS can power up instantly - a crucial feature for any sports area that needs continuous power at a moment’s notice.

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