Community Engagement

Super Bowl 50 and public power

On the evening of December 19, 2011, the San Francisco 49ers were preparing for the final home game of the season in their 40th year in Candlestick Park. As tailgating fans began cascading into the stadium to watch their home team, a PG&E transformer exploded and the stadium went dark. Crews scrambled to get everything back to normal quickly — this was, after all, the marquee Monday Night Football game for the week — and their efforts were successful as power was restored after only delaying kickoff by 20 minutes.

As PG&E, ESPN, and the NFL breathed a sigh of relief and the game continued on backup generators, all seemed fine. And then, early in the second quarter, the power went out again.

Ahead of this game the 49ers ownership had already made a strategic decision to move out of Candlestick with eyes set on heading south to Santa Clara. This relocation would not only allow for an expansion of their facilities, but would also mean they'd move into a public power city and have an opportunity to work with a new utility partner, Silicon Valley Power, in creating a whole new paradigm for their stadium's electric service.

This weekend, a little over four years after the Candlestick black out, the new Levi's Stadium is set for its biggest test yet: Super Bowl 50. With all the pomp and circumstance that follows a big sporting, musical, and cultural event with more than 100 million people watching, reliable electricity is key. Nowhere was this clearer than during the 32-minute outage in 2013 at Super Bowl XLVII when Entergy service failed during the championship game between the Baltimore Ravens and, ironically enough, the 49ers.

So all eyes will be on the new stadium Sunday as SVP ensures that their reliable service keeps the game going without interruption. Power will be backed up by hundreds of solar panels that have been attached to the 375-kW solar bridges connecting the parking areas to the stadiums. These enhancements are expected to ultimately make the venue a net-zero power user.

And the team from SVP have worked hard these last few years to make sure everything goes without a hitch, including traveling last year to Glendale, Arizona, for special training on powering the Super Bowl from a crew that included fellow public power utility Salt River Project. They have also bulked up the wireless infrastructure around the stadium to improve cellular call and data service to match the high-demand needs of Super Bowl game day.

So remember that so much of what is possible in making the Super Bowl happen at Levi's Stadium came from the tireless work from SVP and the city of Santa Clara as you sit back to watch the Panthers face the Broncos this weekend. Superior service and reliability are the hallmarks of public power, whether it's for a small local community or a sporting event televised to hundreds of millions across the globe."