Did a self-healing grid cause the Super Bowl outage?

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Quick take: Speculation is rife that advanced grid equipment may have blacked out the Super Bowl Sunday evening in an attempt to isolate a nearby problem and prevent it from spreading. Meanwhile, we learn that the Orange Bowl came close to overloading a nearby transformer in 2011, but the outage was forestalled thanks to a newly installed transformer monitor.

 

These incidents serve to underline a growing trend -- the U.S. public is growing increasingly concerned about reliability. We must be sure that they understand that the smart grid is the path to that reliability. – Jesse Berst

 

The statement issued by Entergy and SMG, the management company of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans after a power outage interrupted Sunday's Super Bowl, was an attempt to explain what happened:

 

"Shortly after the beginning of the second half of the Super Bowl in the Mercedes Benz Superdome, a piece of equipment that is designed to monitor electrical load sensed an abnormality in the system.  Once the issue was detected, the sensing equipment operated as designed and opened a breaker, causing power to be partially cut to the Superdome in order to isolate the issue.

 

Backup generators kicked in immediately as designed. Entergy and SMG subsequently coordinated start up procedures, ensuring that full power was safely restored to the Superdome.

 

The fault-sensing equipment activated where the Superdome equipment intersects with Entergy's feed into the facility.

 

There were no additional issues detected.

 

Entergy and SMG will continue to investigate the root cause of the abnormality."

 

An article in the Times-Picayune based in New Orleans adds to the mystery, pointing to minutes from several meetings of the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District that discussed "last-minute electrical work" required prior to the Super Bowl. But it wasn't clear whether there is a connection between that work and the Sunday outage.

 

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Washington Post: Could a smart grid have prevented the Super Bowl blackout?

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Jesse Berst is the founder and chief analyst of Smart Grid News.com, the industry's oldest and largest smart grid site. A frequent keynoter at industry events in the U.S. and abroad, he also serves on advisory committees for Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the Institute for Electric Efficiency. He often provides strategic consulting to large corporations and venture-backed startups. He is a member of the advisory boards of GridGlo and Calico Energy Services.