Carlton host Richmond this evening for the AFL season opener at the mighty MCG but, with an expected crowd of 87,000 spectators and a twilight first bounce, the stadium’s famous light towers will have a job to do.

The first game (of the first round) of any new AFL season is always an event marked in the calendar as soon as the fixtures are released. But when it’s two classic AFL teams like Carlton and Richmond with huge fanbases, and an evening game under the lights, then it’s extra special.

We’ve previously highlighted the state of the art monitoring facility that is the MCG, with its cloud hosted IoT portal tracking live consumption of utilities even when the stadium is not in use. But when that first ball bounces this evening all eyes will be on the pitch, and the sophistication of the light towers above the arena will determine how well the players and fans can interpret and enjoy the game.

These famous light towers can be seen from all over the city of Melbourne, and they were first used in the G back in February 1985 (following construction in 1984) to illuminate a World Championship of Cricket match between Australia and England. The light tower system consists of six light towers which stand approximately 85 metres high (including the head frames) which is equivalent to a 24-storey building.

According to the MCG, keeping these colossal light towers operational requires power to be supplied off an 11kV (kilovolt) electrical ring main into a transformer inside the base of each towers, which reduces the voltage down to 415 volts. The total power consumption at any given time is approximately 1800kW (kilowatts) and over a year is approximately 360,000kWh.

Within the headframe of the six light towers, there are an average of 140 (2kW) Metal Halide lamps with an effective life of 5,000 running hours. The number of lamps in each of the towers varies in relation to their position to the central wicket area on the pitch. Utilising the MCG’s ultra-modern operational systems, each of the individual 844 Halide lamps is computer generated to predetermined angles which provide maximum coverage of the arena without any shadows.

This lighting system combines, along with the atmosphere of a packed house, for a night time sporting spectacle like no other in Australia.

In addition to this impressive feat of engineering is the announcement (this month) of a brand new solar LED project to light the way to the ground at Yarra Park. This means that the MCG precinct will be shining bright, and efficiently, in Melbourne for a long time to come.


AEMO would like to wish both Carlton and Richmond the very best of luck tonight, and we hope that all the fans and spectators have a safe and enjoyable evening at the MCG. *Light tower image used with kind permission by the MCG team*

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