Candlestick Park: An Iron Grid for the Gridiron?

Check out this entry on AOL Energy as well!

With the exception of a few teams (Red Sox, Phillies and Cubs come to mind) most baseball fans are fairly mild mannered. In my house, we spend many summer nights falling asleep to the drone of the announcers’ voices as the seventh, eighth, ninth innings come and go. Football fans, on the other hand, seem to be more physically passionate. Maybe it’s the roughness of the sport. Or perhaps it’s the speed and action. Or the inherent excitement in each play. All I know is, if the lights were to go out for a few seconds in a baseball game, most fans would simply wave up the row for the beer guy. The millions of 49ers and Steelers fans in San Francisco and around their TV sets when two outages occurred during Monday night football reacted a little differently.

PG&E doesn’t have any more eyes left to blacken by consumers given their track record on smart grid implementation; the fact that they were unable to give a definitive reason for the outage did not help their cause. Whoever is to blame, one thing is certain. If the PG&E system and large facilities like sports complexes had energy storage technologies in place, the back-up power would come on in the blink of an eye and football fans would be none the wiser.

Energy storage in the form of advanced batteries would be fed by the grid, and then discharged to support minor or major fluctuations in the grid, including outages. Large facilities typically have stand-by generators powered by diesel fuel that can last a short period of time and only power certain emergency functions. Energy storage is emission free, can be designed to run for several hours, and could essentially provide as much back-up power as is considered critical. These batteries can take their power from any grid supplier—renewable energy, nuclear, natural gas, coal—and dispatch electricity when it’s needed and least costly. Surely the price of the outages at Candlestick Park in national TV ad buys alone would outweigh the investment in advanced technology to keep the lights on. More importantly, the investment by PG&E and other utilities in energy storage technologies to serve the electric grid would make our system reliable and tough—just the way we want our linebackers.

Our nation needs to continue to invest in energy storage and other smart innovations for our electric grid. Virtually our entire economy is supported by electricity; if we can as a country make our grid stronger and more reliable we will be able to support our ever-increasing electricity “apps” (including electric vehicles), our burgeoning U.S. technology innovators, and, yes, keep the game lights on for millions of football fans in need of a big win.

About cleangridview
Smart grid and clean tech policy expert with nearly 30 years of experience with utilities, government, non-profits, and the private sector.

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