Powering up National Stadium for NDP 2016

Ground crew below the stage at the National Stadium preparing to raise one of the clusters of the Sky City through the trapdoor during a rehearsal for the Parade. Three other clusters are already in the air, illuminated by powerful projectors.
Ground crew below the stage at the National Stadium preparing to raise one of the clusters of the Sky City through the trapdoor during a rehearsal for the Parade. Three other clusters are already in the air, illuminated by powerful projectors.ST PHOTO: LIN YANGCHEN

No worry about the show running out of electricity, thanks to DSTA engineers

Without it, there would be no National Day Parade. Almost everything depends on it - the lights, the sound, the computers, even the fireworks.

But thanks to the meticulous planning and hard work of engineers, there is no need to worry about the show running out of electricity.

For Singapore's birthday bash tomorrow, the team from the Defence Science and Technology Agency (DSTA) has transformed the National Stadium into a practically self-sufficient power station, with enough juice for 110 three-room HDB flats.

"Power is very important," said Mr Lee Eng Hua, DSTA's director of building and infrastructure, who leads some of the engineers overseeing various aspects of the show, from power and infrastructure to the sound system and fireworks. "We can't afford for it to go down and that's our key worry,"

Among the more visible power gobblers are the six giant LED screens and 36 high-powered lasers. Equally crucial are the 250 speakers, double the number used in celebrating SG50 last year.

They not only deliver crisp sound to the audience but are also painstakingly tuned to ensure that the parade contingents all hear the commands at the same time.

Not to mention the 20-odd infrared transmitters on the roof that make 55,000 spectators' LED wristbands pulsate like a single organism.

Delivering the electricity are 21 km of cable snaking out from 14 generators churning out 18 megawatts of power. The cables are festooned with 240 sensors that set off an alarm whenever the temperature reaches 45 deg C, well below the cables' 70 deg C rating. The sensors are an early-warning system that detects overloading before it trips the circuit breakers and causes a blackout.

 

Associate Professor Gooi Hoay Beng, from Nanyang Technological University's School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, said even Singapore's power grid doesn't have this additional layer of protection. "This is something that we normally don't do. They (NDP engineers) have actually gone very far."

 

This is no laughing matter when the show uses 66 projectors, which Mr Lee said are some of the most power-hungry appliances in the entire stadium.

 

The projectors are responsible for bathing giant suspended props in three-dimensional animated imagery that follows the movements of the props in real time.

 

Yet, not all of the power of NDP 2016 comes directly from electricity. Some of it comes from fire.

The quantity of indoor fireworks will be five times that used in the SEA Games last year.

But Mr Lee said they will be safe, as only non-debris fireworks are being used and his team has determined through measurements that air quality in the stadium will remain within safe limits.

NDP technical director Kenny Wong said: "It's arguably the most technically challenging NDP we've ever done."

Dr Teo Tee Hui, a senior lecturer at the Singapore University of Technology and Design, noted the additional challenge of achieving a compromise between engineering requirements and a set design that has aesthetic appeal for the audience.

The engineers had 22 days to put up everything before rehearsals.

After the NDP, they will have 10 days to return the stadium to its usual state.

Mr Lee said: "The engineers are one of the first to go in and they will be one of the last to leave the place."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 08, 2016, with the headline 'Powering up N-Stadium for S'pore's birthday bash'. Print Edition | Subscribe