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Breakers like these will likely have a code that says exactly why they tripped. If and when officials decide to release that information, we’ll have a better sense for why the blackout happened and what we can do to prevent it from happening again.
In the meantime, we’re left to speculate as others have done. Those in favor of better energy management and “green power” are asking if a “smart grid” and other modern energy management systems would have prevented this failure.
For example, if a smart grid sensed that the Superdome was approaching an electrical load trip limit, and also had some fashion of automated demand response (such as load shedding), the stadium’s blackout probably could have been avoided. Similarly, if a problem arose from the utility side of the grid (Entergy) instead of the stadium side, and the Superdome had some level of “micro-grid intentional islanding capability” plus on-site electricity generation and storage, the stadium could have kept the lights on even as the area grid went dark.
Such smart grid technology successfully prevented a blackout at the 2011 Orange Bowl, when a smart system detected that an aging transformer was close to overloading and diverted power elsewhere.
There are many lessons to be learned by the NFL, the Superdome management, and the local power utility. As a greenie focused on power saving and modernizing of the power grid, I would ask if reducing loads through energy efficiency and the use of smart grids and other technologies would help to make our electrical systems more flexible and resilient. We don’t want the lights going out at the next Super Bowl.