Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=215354
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Independent expert to investigate Super Bowl power outage

by Mary Posani
Feb 06, 2013


Superbowl

Rumors still linger but most authorities agree that singer Beyonce’s electrifying Super Bowl halftime show didn't cause the power outage that delayed delayed the game for 34 minutes. 

Less than two minutes into the third quarter, the stadium slid into semi-darkness, and audiences at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and across the country instinctively blamed the show.

Players took the field and resumed game play only to be stopped when the west side of the stadium lost power and caused a 34-minute delay of the game.  However, the power in the halftime performance could not have a connection to the blackout.

But Beyonce isn't to blame. An independent party is now being hired to investigate the cause of the outage, according to a statement from Entergy, energy provider of the Superdome, management company SMG and the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District. The triumvirate explained Monday that a piece of equipment in the stadium’s power feeder monitors the amount of electricity in the system and detected an abnormality. Once the abnormality was detected, the circuit opened and cut off partial power. 

 

“It was a totally localized condition in the dome,” said George Gross, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “The sensing equipment worked ok and sensed something that was amiss and opened the circuit breaker." Essentially, there was no electricity in one part of the stadium so it didn't corrupt the rest of the network, said Gross, who isn't associated with any of the other parties involved.

During Monday's press conference, as reported by ABC, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said the halftime show had no role in the blackout. Doug Thornton, CEO and senior vice president of SMG, said  at the conference that the halftime show was run on separate generators disconnected from the Superdome’s power source.

If that’s the case, the generators for the halftime show produced their own electricity. Such a generator can act as a stand-alone electric source without utilizing the electrical interconnection to the stadium's grid.

When a power outage occurs in a home, an emergency supply or stand-by generator may be  connected through a transfer switch. The power that typically comes from the electric company’s power grid, but with a transfer switch, the power comes from the stand-by generator.

Unlike a home blackout, however, the generators for the halftime show could not be connected through a transfer switch. In fact, according to reports, the power usage decreased during the halftime performance.

If the sensor equipment in the stadium’s power feeder was unable to recognize the abnormality, it could have caused further power outage, according to the same joint statement. 

 

In circumstances such as these, the circuit needs to break the connection to prevent overheating and a possible fire, according to Gross.

A spokesman for SMG said he couldn't comment further on the power outage.