Preventing a power outage during the Super Bowl: $4 million

Written on:February 7, 2013
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When a power outage affects a major television event, such as the Super Bowl, it’s a big deal. More than 108 million people were watching. Plus, in the case of Sunday’s game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens, the outage gave the 49ers a chance to rally after a tough first half.

But maybe sports facilities — and really anyone that wants to deliver a service — be it online music or a few hours of entertainment during a national sporting event — should start thinking about their infrastructure and their resiliency. After all, our infrastructure isn’t getting any younger, and consumers certainly aren’t getting any more patient.

That was the point of a blog post Amazon Web Services Distinguished Engineer James Hamilton wrote a day after the game. Hamilton offered up a few smart solutions for power outages. At least one of them — using diesel generators to ensure redundancy — makes great financial sense for something like the Super Bowl.

Two bus-sized 2.5-3 MW generators should be more than enough to back up the power supply from the Superdome’s utility, Entergy, Hamilton wrote. Each generator costs less than $ 1 million, Hamilton wrote, and can be rented for less. Add in switchgear, uninterruptible power supplies and a one extra generator for good measure, and the cost comes in at less than $ 10 million. Hamilton continues:

“Looking at statistics from the 2012 event, a 30 second commercial costs just over $ 4m. For the price of just over 60 seconds of commercials the facility could (be) protected against fault. And, using rental generators, less than 30 seconds of commercials would provide the needed redundancy to avoid impact from any utility failure. Given how common utility failures are and the negative impact of power disruptions at a professional sporting event, this looks like good value to me.”

Hamilton also suggests in the post that facility operators frequently test equipment, use automated recovery, use more utility breakers to decrease the amount of a facility an outage could wipe out and simply steer clear of sites in fault zones altogether. In short, big facility operators might want to think more like the cloud guys.

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