Sports Pros Going Solar

It seems so obvious in hindsight, but considering all the empty roof space and unused real estate associated with professional sports facilities, you would think the use of solar for energy production would be a given.  You might even wonder why solar wasn’t a part of the plan a long time ago?   If so, you might also be surprised that pro sports actually is leading the way in finding new ways of utilizing the power of the sun to offset the costs of energizing the places where these teams practice and play.

This past September, the major sports leagues sent a letter encouraging their member organizations to incorporate solar power into their various venues and facilities.  They also distributed a solar development guide, titled Solar Electric Energy for Your Stadium or Arena produced on their behalf by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Bonneville Environmental Foundation (BEF).  The guide outlines the steps necessary for each stadium or facility to add on-site solar power to the energy mix.

The leagues realize how embracing alternative energy has many practical and social benefits.  They can lead the way in reducing their environmental impact, become a leader in the sustainable energy movement, provide a positive example to their millions of fans throughout the country, and realize the economic benefits that go along with a move toward energy self-reliance.  Some significant installations include:

  • The Los Angeles Staples Center, home to the Lakers, Clippers and Kings, now meets 5 percent of its energy needs with 512 kilowatts (kW) of solar panels on its roof and the neighboring Nokia Theater.
  • The Boston Red Sox recently installed solar panels at Fenway Park to power 37 percent of the stadium’s water-heating capacity.
  • In 2009, an 18,000 sq ft solar array was installed atop a parking garage near the US Airways Center in Phoenix, home to the Phoenix Suns and the Arizona Rattlers.  Utility rebates have been estimated at $60,000 to $85,000 annually.
  • In 2007, the Cleveland Indians installed an 8.4kW system on a canopy that is part of a concession stand in the upper deck of the ball park.  The team estimates annual system production at about 9,400 kilowatt-hours (kWh).
  • Pocono Raceway at Long Pond, PA (a NASCAR venue) is home to the world’s largest stadium solar array.  In July of 2010, the track commissioned 40,000 PV modules that provide all of its power, plus enough for 1,000 homes in the nearby neighborhoods.  The PV array eliminates an annual energy bill of $250,000.
  • The 120,0000 square-foot Atlantic Health Jets Training Center, used by the NFL’s New York Jets, uses 3,000 roof-mounted Yingli Solar modules to provide 750,000 kWh of electricity annually.  The Jets boast that this is the largest solar system installed at any NFL team headquarters.

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