Remote power monitoring helps prevent football power failures

Many fans of professional football remember the Blackout Bowl. On a chilly February afternoon in New Orleans, the championship game between the teams from San Francisco and Baltimore was interrupted by a massive power outage in the stadium.

While the power outage likely didn’t impact the game’s outcome, the importance of maintaining power was pushed to the forefront. As advertisers can pay millions for commercial spots during the big game, it’s crucial to have a power monitoring solution in place. That’s where providers of uninterruptible power supply (UPS)—a system that delivers immediate backup and safeguards input power from disruptions—enter the game.

Filmwerks International is one company that has implemented a better way to monitor utility power for their backup UPS systems and generators. After all, they provide services for some of the most-watched live events in the United States. They turned to Fluke 3540 FC Three-Phase Power Monitors that are connected locally to the cloud, and use a convenient mobile application and desktop software to send alerts for when systems are potentially at risk.

Filmwerks President Michael Satrazemis said he’s always looking to gain better insight into his operation.

“We obviously need a way to understand what’s going on with not only the UPS system, we’ve got to be able to understand the utility system, and we have a generator,” he said. “So, we have all these components now that it’s become critical for us to be able to monitor and understand exactly what’s going on at any given moment. In addition to the fact that we’ve got hundreds if not thousands of variables in our television compound, we need to be able to isolate when we have an issue.”

Live broadcasts rely on UPS backups

Filmwerks is known around the mobile broadcast truck industry as a leader in UPS systems. Headquartered in Rocky Point, North Carolina, they dispatch crews with custom-built, climate-controlled UPS broadcast trailers across the country during football season. These broadcast compounds typically feature eight to ten trucks that cost more than $10 million apiece. Filmwerks also covers the professional golf circuit, providing backup power solutions for close to 150 tournaments per year—starting in Hawaii and moving across the United States to the East Coast. In addition to providing UPS systems and power data analysis, they also build mobile studios and stages to support their clients’ needs.

During these touring jobs, it’s critical that the entire team receives alerts, based on customized measurement thresholds, that could expose potential problems with the utility power. When working live football games, they run a UPS system with a 500kW generator to accommodate their clients. Rick Fadeley manages UPS systems for Filmwerks, and a big part of his role is to alert clients, which includes practically all of the top sports broadcast companies, to dips and swells in power via real-time data.

“Traditionally in the live broadcast power business, up until a couple years ago, it was always twin generators for redundancy,” Fadeley said. “So, they weren’t even connected to shore power utility at all; they were in isle mode floating these broadcast trucks.”

For football games, they hook up to four three-phase power monitors with flexible current probes to the UPS trailer’s electrical panel to track voltage, amps, frequency, and total harmonic distortion (THD). This enables technicians to keep tabs on the incoming utility power supply as well as their own power outputs.

Leading the industry by going green

Filmwerks sees itself as a pioneer in a greener and more reliable approach to providing sustainable UPS technology to clients who cannot risk prolonged outages. They employ a modular design and state-of-the-art battery banks and avoid running generators and burning diesel fuel, which lowers diesel fuel costs for their clients. The effects are a reduction in their carbon footprint and the minimization of excess machine noise.

And a big selling point to clients is their deep knowledge of and ability to remotely monitor power transference. The combination of decreasing their reliance on non-renewable fuel, optimizing the life of their batteries, and improving their power monitoring capabilities allows them to conserve energy more efficiently.

Baseline and real-time data plotted on shareable graph

Fadeley, with buy-in from Satrazemis, bought eight Fluke 3540 FC Three-Phase Power Monitors.

“We’ll take an instrument, connect it to a load, gather the data, and then analyze that data in real time,” Fadeley said.

Advanced power monitoring instruments can connect via a wireless network, to mobile and desktop applications. This way, maintenance teams can watch measurement data as it gathers and receive alerts whenever the power surges above or drops below custom thresholds determined by the managing technician.

During this professional football game, the crew was made up of multiple UPS and broadcast technicians, a UPS manager, project manager, and Mike Satrazemis, the CEO and founder of Filmwerks.

Fadeley’s team gets a baseline of the critical loads with their three-phase power monitors. This gives them an idea of what to anticipate, and how to connect and load their equipment. The devices archive data so, like pro athletes reviewing game footage to improve, the Filmwerks crew can grade show performance based on data collected weeks or even months prior, which indicates the power consumption of specific equipment. Their mobile equipment is in a different location every week or so, depending on different electrical loads at times. Filmwerks technicians have used power monitoring to respond to problems as they arise. In one case they received an alert, via the Fluke Connect® app, indicating a dip in house power voltage; their backup diesel generator switched on to support the loads.

“Later on, when we went to analyze what had happened, we found out that the house breaker had tripped. The nice thing about the Fluke system is that it timestamps, so we can tell exactly when this event occurred, how long it took the backup generator to start, those kinds of things. It helps us to look at performance of our system also.”

Establishing power usage history is an opportunity to stay ahead of potential problems when they revisit utility power sources that support live sporting events and concerts. Once they have analyzed the data collected over a determined period of time, they can generate reports based off saved power graphs produced by the software. “It provides real data so that the clients, executives, and decision-making folks can see the data, agree, and pursue a plan of action. For me, personally, what I do is to actually look at that and say ‘yes, guys, this facility has the power we can use.’ And we can do the show.”

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