Keeping the fairy lights on this Christmas

The festive season is now in full swing. Your nights are probably lit up by the decorative twinkle of fairy light displays, and, if you are lucky, you might even come home to an illuminated tree.

Despite what my young daughters might believe, it’s not pixie dust creating the magic. There are many hidden technologies that go into the magnificent spectacles we see in our streets, at Christmas fairs, and in our homes.

Although Thomas Edison is often credited as the ‘inventor’ of the lightbulb, in fact there were over 20 inventors of incandescent lamps before Edison’s version. And there have been many developments since. Modern lighting is safer, smarter and more sustainable. And there have been many developments over the years in safeguarding power supplies keeping the lights on.

Electrical faults can be a right Grinch. They can not only plunder you in darkness, but they can also damage critical electrical infrastructure. Indeed, a fault could even potentially shut down an entire power system.

And, trust me, this is not something you want to live through.

I was in New York in the winter of 2012 when Hurricane Sandy hit Manhattan, causing flood damage that resulted in widespread power outages. At the time, I was pregnant with my first daughter, and had to sleep next to an open fireplace to keep warm. The ordeal lasted four days.

As I return to New York this festive season to be with family and friends, the chances of finding myself in a similar situation are reduced thanks to my clever colleagues at ABB.

To ensure the power outage of 2012 never happens again, the local utility company partnered with ABB to replace conventional infrastructure with digitally-enabled technology. Today, the utility company can obtain data on critical pieces of equipment to make faster decisions during a crisis and reduce the likelihood of – or completely avoid – future outages. Keeping the lights on in Manhattan this festive season, whatever the weather.

We all want a relaxing and stress-free Christmas. And thanks to those bright sparks working in the electrification business, we can celebrate the holiday season to its fullest. Lights and all.

Wishing you all Happy Holidays.

Did you know?

One of the most famous Christmas illuminations are those that are switched on at the seaside resort of Blackpool in the United Kingdom. Known as ‘the greatest free light show on earth’ they have been a major part of Blackpool’s attractions since 1879, when they were described as ‘Artificial Sunshine’.

Some illuminating facts:

  • Over one million LED lamps are used
  • It stretches almost six miles
  • More than 500 scenic designs and features make up the sight
  • More than 100 miles of festoon strip are strung between promenade poles and across the carriageway
  • Cabling and wiring stretch for more than 200 miles
  • Each display will shine non-stop for over 60 nights
  • It attracts about 4 million visitors each year
  • They cost over £2 million a year to stage
  • Most of the display now operates on the 24V SEL V ‘separated extra low voltage’
  • Electricity used has been slashed by 2/3 over ten years from 1.5MW to less than 0.5MW annually mainly due to the use of LED technology
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About the author

Monique Elliott

Monique Elliott is Global Head of Customer Experience Marketing and ad interim VP Communications for ABB’s Electrification business. She joined ABB in 2018 from GE Industrial Solutions, where she was Chief Marketing Officer. U.S. born, she lives in Zurich, Switzerland, and is married with two young daughters.
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