How the infrastructure for this week’s golf tournament had to be built entirely from scratch 

It’s been a big summer of sport. After delivering both the Winter Olympics and Commonwealth Games earlier in the year, August and September has been busy for Aggreko.

The last two months have taken our fleet and technicians to the inaugural European Championships in Glasgow and to Paris, where the 2018 Ryder Cup tees off tomorrow.

It’s been an exciting time, but with the honour of servicing major sporting spectacles comes a complex and unique set of challenges.

The starting point for powering or providing heating and cooling for events such as these is a question of optimizing both efficiency and affordability.

The logistical operation that goes into putting on such an event is immense, in addition to the costs required to fund them. The requirement from a supplier’s perspective is threefold: your offering must be smart, flexible and affordable.

In the case of this year’s maiden European Championships in Glasgow, Aggreko’s team was able to do this by working very closely with the Local Organising Committee using our experience from the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games.

The key to ensuring you’re ahead of the pack is getting the team in early to work with the organising committees. This allows you to assess the pre-existing systems, the reliability of the local grid and evaluate the potential solutions. We have engineers who have been working on these sorts of events for years, so can easily analyse the unique requirements of different events.

Large multisport events already offer their own set of challenges, with a diverse range of sports and arenas requiring power and temperature control, often spread out over a large geographical area. While Glasgow 2018 was perhaps more contained than this year’s Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, or the Winter Olympics at PyeongChang, it still required delivery for 84 sessions of sport, from the Open Water Swimming at Loch Lomond to the Mountain Biking at Cathkin Braes.

This meant that the event required a mixture of battery and temporary power systems. Given some venues were in remote areas, we couldn’t always rely on power supplied by the grid, therefore a temporary six-week solution with integrated storage was more suitable. Above all, this is an engineering job, requiring more work from our electrical distribution fleet, which in turn needs the right engineers and expert people.

In total, Aggreko provided more than 10 MVA of power to Glasgow 2018, distributed through over 240 panels and 26km of cable.

Ryder Cup: a blank canvas

In many respects, the Ryder Cup could hardly be more different. Unlike the Glasgow games, we needed to build infrastructure entirely from scratch – a potentially daunting task when your canvas is an immaculate golf course.

Working with the European Tour, our team – which has more than 10 years’ experience of working at the Ryder Cup – began design and planning a year ahead of the tournament, before commencing on site in May.

Aggreko was charged with running distribution systems and temperature control systems to support all structures, including setting up within the grandstands, which required us to follow at the right pace and in collaboration with the event build teams.

With Le Golf National, a fully-functioning course before, during and after the event, it’s important to create the right systems in a sustainable way and avoid time-intensive and inefficient activities such as making permanent grid connections, not to mention minimising impact on the course itself.

Temperature Control is critical for events as the Ryder Cup: it needs to be as efficient as possible and able to both heat and cool venues in an unpredictable climate. This requires a flexible modular system, able to adapt to changes in weather which are becoming increasingly extreme.

When the tournament begins tomorrow, our crew of 35 will be delivering over 25 MVA of power and 7 MW of temperature control systems, working over 1700 days.

Budget, legacy and sustainability

I believe there are three key factors for success when powering major sporting events.

The first is ensuring that your offering is both workable and realistic within the budget of the organising committee. Temporary power and temperature control are crucial to the success of any event; however, your offering needs to be affordable in order to make events financially viable.

Second, the offer needs to be forward-thinking beyond just the event itself. As I noted earlier, it would be both disruptive and wasteful to create permanent systems at an event such as the Ryder Cup, as once the event is over the venue is unlikely to see that kind of energy demand for years to come. Conversely, developing the infrastructure in a host city that has held two major sporting events in the last four years needs to be done in a way that retains its value for when it is next needed. The legacy you leave from these events is as important as the service you deliver.

Finally, you must be able to provide solutions that are both sustainable and appropriate to the venues they service. This means offering a diverse set of technologies dependent on the needs of the buyer, whether that’s new or old technology.

No major sporting event is the same. Each one carries with it a specific set of power and heating and cooling needs, and only through meticulous planning and collaboration can you help turn them from blank canvases in major spectacles enjoyed by millions.

Robert Wells is Managing Director of Aggreko Event Services.