The Solvalla horse racing track, located in Bromma, Stockholm, Sweden, was opened in 1927 and is the biggest harness racing venue in the Nordic countries. The track hosts a number of important race events including, on the last Sunday in May, the annual Elitloppet, one of harness racing’s most prestigious international events.
With the popularity of the sport, with both visitors to the track and those watching televised events, the lighting is crucial; especially with the extended hours of darkness experienced by a venue so far north. The lighting is also vital to help ensure that any high-definition broadcasts are lit well enough to do the format justice – especially if the TV cameras are sited some distance from the racing action.
For a recent upgrade to the lighting system, the owners of the track contacted Kennedy Automation AB, a Rockwell Automation Recognised Systems Integrator, who designed and installed a new lighting solution that would satisfy the needs of the most demanding race goer and high-definition broadcaster.
The existing arena floodlighting was controlled by a semi-manual system, where huge banks of floodlights were energised simultaneously. The arena floodlighting provided only one level of lighting, which was barely suitable for TV productions, but totally unsuitable for all other less-demanding uses of the arena. Even in winter, simple maintenance operations had to use maximum floodlighting, which was very wasteful of both energy and energy costs.
Kennedy Automation AB was tasked with the provision of a complete control system, including individual control of floodlights. It also had to include software configuration of lighting groups to allow for activity-based lighting levels, which also helped to ensure maximum lamp life, minimum energy usage and complete supervision of the system.
According to Liam Kennedy, Lead Engineer at Kennedy Automation AB, there were a number of issues that had to be addressed for the replacement solution; primarily the sheer size of the installation, which comprised a 1 km track, 28 masts and over 390 floodlights on the masts and stands. Kennedy Automation AB also had to take into account the inhospitable weather experienced at the track.
"We had to lay new fibre optic cabling around the entire 1 km track," Kennedy explains, "with fibre optics being used to counter the adverse effects of long data-transmission distances. We also had to install numerous panels around the circuit and, to counter the effects of the cold weather, the panels housing the programmable automation controllers (PAC) had to be heated. We are also installing a weather station, which will use the same fibre network, highlighting the expandability of the solution.
"The system has to be extremely dependable," Kennedy adds. "Failure of the system prior to or during a televised event is a huge risk, which could seriously damage the reputation of the arena. Therefore we made the decision to deploy several controllers to help ensure continued operation, even during a network failure."
Kennedy Automation faced very tight timescales; with the replacement system being installed in a short six-week period across June and July – the only time available in the racing season that the lighting is not required. "We had to build and test a lot of the equipment off site," Kennedy elaborates, "to make the installation and commissioning process as quick and expedient as possible."
The solution devised by Kennedy Automation AB comprised panels housing Allen-Bradley Point I/O on each of the 28 floodlight masts, connected to 13 midrange Allen-Bradley® CompactLogix™ L30ER programmable automation controllers (PAC) via a 1Gbit fibre optic Ethernet backbone, based entirely on Stratix 5700™ (industrial EtherNet switches & media) managed switches. FactoryTalk® View SE provides the track operators with a monitoring, supervision and reporting platform, leveraging data supplied by FactoryTalk Historian SE and FactoryTalk VantagePoint.
In operation, the CompactLogix™ PACs determine which floodlights are lit by sending the appropriate signals to the relevant I/O panels. This means that the track operators can now adjust the lighting (lux) levels to suit what is happening at the track. These include: 100 lux for maintenance; 500 lux for training; 1,000 lux for competitions, where people are in the arena and for standard-definition broadcasts; and finally, 1,600-2,000 lux for full HD broadcasts.
Kennedy elaborates: "UEFA has similar demands for football stadia. HDTV has really put the pressure on venue owners to ensure that their lighting is capable of providing the best possible visual HD experience."
The new solution has given the track owners far greater control of their floodlighting infrastructure. Light spill has also been significantly reduced thanks to much better tailoring of the lighting direction, which is now possible with the variable lamp control. The very expensive lamp bulbs are also lasting much longer as they are only turned on when needed.
Kennedy explains: "During a HD broadcast, the camera operators can now zoom in on a horse's nose or a jockey's face from 400 m away for replays. In the first week that we ran it at the full level, a jockey was informed by a broadcaster that they could see the real determination on his face as he came around the second curve. The jockey was staggered that they could see him from that distance let alone his facial expression. Before the new lighting system was installed all you could reliably see was a bunch of 10 horses; now you can zoom in on a jockey's face."
As well as far superior broadcasting capabilities, the track's owners are seeing much lower energy bills, more dependable performance, a more reliable source of spare parts and, as well as gaining much more flexibility in operation, they will also have the capability to expand the installation without affecting the existing performance – all thanks to the integrated and scalable Rockwell Automation midrange solution.
Kennedy concludes: "We only use Rockwell Automation products, excluding all other possibilities. We would rather say no than deliver a non-Rockwell Automation solution. We want to be seen as being highly competent in the use of Rockwell Automation products in order to maintain our excellent reputation. We consider ourselves to be a primary ally of Rockwell Automation in Scandinavia, someone that Rockwell Automation can recommend without any doubts."
The installation at the Solvalla track was recently put forward for The Swedish Lighting Award. Of the 90 applicants from across the nation, only four were shortlisted, including Solvalla. The eventual winner was the National Library in Stockholm, but this in no way detracts from the achievement by Kennedy Automation, as in the past the majority of applicants and shortlisted solutions have been indoor lighting applications. In recent years, due to the advances in LED technology, outdoor effect lighting projects have been nominated and recent winners include effect lighting on a bridge. However, Kennedy believes that Solvalla was the first arena lighting application ever to be shortlisted.