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Mission: Critical Powering the Olympic Games

Thu, 11/15/2012 - 17:36 -- Ruth Williams

2-30London is one of the world’s great cities and power problems are relatively few and far between. With the world’s eyes upon it for the Summer Olympic Games, however, any power disruption would cause acute embarrassment.

So the UK Olympic Delivery Authority and the London 2012 Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) are taking no chances. The organisers have shelled out hundreds of millions of pounds to ensure the lights stay on for the six-week schedule of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, which commence on 27 July. 

2-32bAggreko is the Games’ official temporary energy services provider. Under the agreement, worth around £50 million (US$78 million) the company will provide power to each of the 39 venues in London and six other locations – Weymouth (sailing) plus Cardiff, Coventry, Glasgow, Manchester and Newcastle (all football). 

For the period of the Games, it is expected that Aggreko will provide over 220 MW of power from over 400 generator sets for the biggest deployment of temporary power for a single sporting event in the UK, and some 60 MW more than it supplied to the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. 

In addition to supporting both the Opening and Closing Ceremonies at the Olympic Stadium in London, Aggreko equipment will also be used to power field-of-play lighting and camera equipment in the various stadia as well as powering the International Broadcasting Centre, which will be providing television feeds to billions of people around the world. 

Most of the 400-plus 200 to 500 kVA Euro Stage IIIb compliant generators deployed at the Games will be backing up critical supplies, but some greenfield sites, Eton Dorney for the rowing and canoe sprint events, and Hadleigh Farm for the mountain bike competition will see Aggreko providing prime power. There are no plans for primary running at the Olympic Park, aside from the Opening and Closing Ceremonies, but for most of the 44 venues, it will be a mixture of mains and temporary power.

The power will be provided by generators located at each venue distributed through over 1 000 kilometres of cable and 3 500 distribution panels. Aggreko plans to deploy a team of over 150 people for the contract, and most of the equipment used in the project will be manufactured at Aggreko’s factory in Scotland.

Aggreko is using rail to transport over 170 generators manufactured at its new £22 million manufacturing facility in Dumbarton and 11 transformers to its two dedicated operation centres close to the Olympic Park. Much of the equipment, however, has been mobilised from abroad. Fifty containers of kit shipped from the Middle East and South America will be heading back there after the festivities draw to a close.

Testing, testing

Ahead of the Games, Aggreko engineers and event management experts have supported the ‘London Prepares’ series, a programme of international sporting events hosted at a series of venues to test systems, operational approaches and procedures. The first phase of test events was successfully completed in 2011, with Aggreko providing temporary power and engineering support at Horse Guards Parade for beach volleyball and at Eton Dorney, the venue for rowing and canoe sprints. 

Aggreko also supported LOCOG at major venues during the various phases of the ‘London Prepares’ series, including the Velodrome and Hockey Centre. In addition, Aggreko provided temporary power to test all venues’ systems, as part of the commissioning process.

“It is about getting the best fit for each site, working with LOCOG on a design solution that meets all their requirements and that’s where the test events have been extremely useful,” says Aggreko’s Olympic business director Robert Wells.

“They give us the opportunity to work with the venue teams and build a good relationship at an operational level. The beach volleyball at Horse Guards Parade, for example, is a very tight load in, so it was looking at the space available, access routes and how we’re going to work alongside the other contractors to get everything in on time. In Greenwich Park, it was about being sensitive to the restrictions and to the impact on residents.

“Everybody’s very focused now, but this has been a two-year commitment for us,” he says. “We hope we’ve got every eventuality covered, but there will still be things that change as the sites go live.” 

A number of Wells’ team were in Vancouver for the 2010 Winter Olympics and/or Beijing. “Whether they’re existing Aggreko employees who’ve moved across from North America, the Middle East, Australia or Europe, or individuals appointed, their experience of major events like this is invaluable,” says Wells.

GE has broad involvement

It is fair to say that GE is all over the Olympics like a rash. Its official product and service categories include energy generation and distribution systems, healthcare, lighting, aircraft engines, rail transport, water treatment, and logistics. In other words, just about everything that GE makes or provides. 

2-32aPerhaps the most eye-catching scheme is at Tower Bridge. In partnership with EDF Energy, the official power utility of the Games, GE has sponsored the installation of 1 800 LED fixtures and 2 km of linear lighting, which will see 40% shaved off energy consumption. The bridge will be used as a stage for light shows during the Games, complementing a huge, suspended set of Olympic rings. 

GE Lighting has supplied 14 000 lamps for use in the back of house, functional areas of the 80 000 seat Olympic Stadium. GE is also designing the lighting for the warm up track situated to the south of the stadium, allowing the viewers at home to watch their favourite athletes prepare for competition.

Brand new energy centres

Two brand new energy centres, however, are set to offer perhaps the most lasting legacy of GE’s involvement with the London Olympics. The 10 MW project, consisting of three 3.3 MW Jenbacher gas engines, can generate enough power for 20 000 homes. After the Games have ended, the power, heating and cooling systems that the CHP-based centres are providing this summer will furnish that energy to new residential and business developments for at least 40 years.

2-34The first energy centre, equipped with two 3.3 MW Jenbacher type 6 natural gas cogeneration units, is in the district of Stratford and will serve the adjacent Olympic Park and commercial redevelopment initiatives in East London. The second energy centre, fitted with one 3.3 MW module, is in King’s Yard, at the western end of Olympic Park, and will supply thermal power to the Aquatics Centre’s swimming pools and other venues through the park’s district heating network, as well as electrical and thermal power for sports venues, homes and other buildings in the area. 

Each unit has two-stage exhaust gas heat recovery, for high- and low-temperature hot water. GE’s 20-cylinder, spark-ignition Jenbacher engines have an air-cooled generator which supply 11 000 volts of three-phase, 50 Hz electricity, plus a 4 MW two-stage absorption chiller that generates cold water from the engine exhaust. 

Absorption chillers provide an economic and environmental alternative to conventional refrigeration. Combining high efficiency, low emission power generation equipment with absorption chillers allows for maximum total fuel efficiency, elimination of HCFC/CFC refrigerants and reduced overall air emissions.

Both facilities have 20 MW boilers that use a natural gas feedstock to create additional heat at times of peak demand. Ultimately, as the demand grows with future development, the Stratford and Kings Yard energy centres could provide 200 MW of heat, 64 MW of cooling, and 30 MW of electricity. Within the Olympic Park, this would account for 10% of the total electrical load during the Games and more than half of the electrical load at this site over the long term.

UPS: keeping the lights on

For the past three years, GE Digital Energy has been working closely with LOCOG to provide a back-up UPS and services solution to ensure that the games run smoothly even in the event of a power outage.

GE Digital, based in Leicester, UK, will supply more than US$13 million worth of UPS and services across all of the venues to provide backup power for field-of-play lighting, security, scoring systems, broadcasting and commentary positions as well as supporting the IT and telecoms infrastructure. In the event of a power grid disruption, GE technology and on-site engineering support will switch to battery back-up power—keeping the Games running until power is restored.

The UPS systems range from 700 VA desktop systems to three-phase installed UPS systems rated up to 400 kVA with up to 40 minutes of battery back?up time. As space at venues is at a premium, GE is supplying over 40 compact portable plant room solutions rated up to 250 kVA, which incorporate UPS, bypass transformers, batteries, switchgear and air conditioning in a system that allows pluggable connectivity for speedy connection and removal.

2-35During the Games GE’s services team will provide round the clock remote monitoring and diagnostics and on venue field support with a less than 30 minute response time. The team at GE recognised early in the design process how critical availability will be at the Games but also safety to personnel and equipment in an electrical scheme which includes prime generation to overcome grid supply issues. 

To ensure that during a generator changeover there were no floating neutral issues, GE has installed zero phase shift bypass transformers on all three-phase UPS systems to ensure that there is no loss of neutral and no damage to equipment that it is being supported.

What are the chances of a power outage?

With the Olympic Games fast approaching, data centre operators are being constantly reminded to prepare for the significant increase in power consumption across the capital, as well as any conceivable disruptions occurring during the competitions’ six week schedule. But how likely is a power outage or disruption during the Games?

“It’s virtually impossible to predict the true impact the Olympics will have on power consumption with any degree of certainty so, with that in mind, it is imperative that those responsible for maintaining the most critical facilities have adequate safeguards in place,” according to Mike Elms, technical services manager for Uninterruptible Power Supplies Limited.

“The critical nature of most data centres means they are likely to have multiple power sources entering the facility, known as being ‘duel-corded’. As an owner or operator, you could be forgiven for believing that this would be all the protection you require but it doesn’t take in to account the possibility of a catastrophic event, such as an act of terrorism, or even human error, which accounts for around 75% of data centre downtime.”

Elms adds: “In one of these situations, and assuming the facility has not been physically affected, the only thing that would stop your operation from grinding to a halt is an on-site power protection system, with the capacity to comfortably cope with the entire load – and that means a UPS facilitating the transition to a back-up generator.”

Technology analysts Ovum have suggested that operators manage potential power shortfalls by switching off non-critical applications. However, as Conleth McCallan, managing director for hosting and connectivity provider, Datanet, explains, for many, this is simply not possible. 

“I don’t think anyone is expecting major disruptions throughout the Games. After all, those working with LOCOG have had plenty of time to guarantee this isn’t the case. Having said that, we are making sure all maintenance is completed prior to the Games, and our existing procedures ensure all systems have appropriate levels of back-up power protection. It is definitely a case of better safe than sorry.”