As you all know there was a power outage in the stadium during today’s Superbowl. You saw the players and and announcers and so forth speculating on what’s happening.

“A surge.”


I started thinking of all the guys behind the scenes of this thing. A stadium is more than a giant thing. The power grid connects to a substation that’s just outside the stadium (or perhaps inside) with a very high voltage source. There can even be several grids that feed something that big.

Remember, this place is the size of a small city.

Voltage between 13kV and 63kV is being fed off the grid to this place.

From there it’s downtransformed to (likely) 480V 3-phase for distribution to various panels throughout the stadium. Those, in turn, get pulled transformed again into a bundle of pairs of 240V 1-phase that feed the typical outlets you see in the US. (Aside: 240V one-phase has two power conductors 180˚ apart. If you grab one and a ground you have the 120V outlet power that everyone is used it. If you use both halves, you get 240V that runs things like your stove and dryer)

Since half the stadium went dark something close to the source got blown. Close to the source is high voltage. High voltage is dangerous to work on.

This is only 480V. Only like a stick of dynamite going off. Higher voltage is more dangerous still.

Some poor guy had to go in and start futzing around fixing something that’s broken.

Of course, this isn’t as simple as changing a fuse (do people still know what those are?), or flipping a breaker. First you need to understand what was the likely root cause of the problem; the last thing you want is to burn the stadium down by feeding a short for instance. Then you have to reset whatever protection device you have, and have an orderly powerup of a massive complex.

It sucks to be in that position. Good on you, whoever you are, for getting it done in a relative quick fashion! :-D