Will Usain Bolt cause a UK energy crisis during the 100m final?

By John Parnell

At 2150 on Sunday evening, a select group of people will await the starter’s pistol for the men’s 100m final in the Olympic stadium.

Judgment will be made on years of preparation and the line between success and failure is a narrow one.

Usain Bolt performs his trademark lightening bolt celebration, but will he creating electricity problems for the UK? (Source: Flickr/Brunel University)

The group in question is of course the capacity forecasting team at the National Grid, which manages the UK’s electricity and gas networks.

The men’s 100m final is a Sunday like none other.

So far your personal list of Olympic highlights is probably dependant on your nationality. If you measure it by its effect on the electricity grid, Danny Boyle’s opening ceremony is hard to top.

However, the effect might be counter-intuitive.

When the Queen made her TV skydiving debut at around 2130 during the opening extravaganza, National Grid says there was a drop in power demand of 1800MW compared to a normal Friday night, as people gave up more energy intensive activities to park themselves in front of the TV. That’s enough to power Liverpool, a city of 470,000 people.

At the end of the ceremony, closer to one in the morning, demand was up 1600MW as the audience swapped bed for TV.

So during the 9.8 or 9.7 seconds that it takes Usain Bolt or Yohan Blake to win the gold (you heard it hear first), the network gets a brief reprieve while nobody dares leave the TV to put on a power hungry kettle or sort a load of laundry.

However, Sunday night is typically a quiet one for the grid so the normal patterns are  are likely to be disturbed.

“Sunday night when people tune in for the final, followed by a drop in demand whilst the audience watches the event, followed by another pick up when the race finishes,” a spokesperson for National Grid told RTCC.

“Traditionally for a Sunday night there would be a drop at this time in the evening as people go to bed but because the coverage is going on through the night the usual pattern will change,” she added.

Check out the power demand of the key Olympic venues live

Read more on: Energy | | | |