Clean Energy for Stadiums: a Winning Combination

With today being one day post-Super Bowl and the opening day of the 2015 Getting to Zero National Forum program, we wanted to honor a zero energy football stadium with this re-post of a guest blog from Urban Green Energy.

Solar and wind technology are becoming rapidly more cost competitive, with many financing options available to reduce upfront costs for stadium owners. Lincoln Financial Field photo courtesy of UGE.

by Ryan Gilchrist

On game day, thousands of sports fans flock to stadiums to see their favorite team battle it out, without paying mind to the immense resources needed to power the arena. What many visitors do not realize between eating, drinking, and cheering is the amount of power, water, and materials that are consumed to build, operate, and maintain these large facilities. Once large energy suckers, stadium and arena enterprises are beginning to see the viability of sustainability by reducing their carbon footprint and producing renewable energy.

With on-site renewable energy, stadiums and arenas become power producers rather than heavy energy consumers. In 2012, Lincoln Financial Field, the home of the Philadelphia Eagles, installed 14 wind turbines above their end zones in addition to solar PV panels to help generate all of its electricity onsite and become net zero. The 3.1MW of on-site renewable energy capacity saves the stadium a staggering US$3m annually. Lincoln Financial Field isn’t the only one touching down in renewable energy. In fact, of the 126 American professional sports teams, 38 use renewable energy to supply some of their needs. This movement continues to build momentum, as the new San Francisco 49ers Levi Stadium is the first professional football stadium to achieve LEED Gold. A 375kW solar installation will be unveiled, providing enough power annually to offset power consumed during home games.

Solar and wind technology are becoming rapidly more cost competitive, with many financing options available to reduce upfront costs for stadium owners. Venues can save over US$1m in a single year due to greening efforts and furthermore attract $1m in new corporate sustainability sponsors. An added bonus of stadium-integrated wind and solar systems is the freedom from severe price fluctuations. For high impact users like sports venues, that means serious savings.

Many sports leagues around the world are already hitting it out of the park when it comes to incorporating sustainability into their overall operations, but given the unique high visibility of stadiums, the benefits of on-site distributed power generation extend even further. Solar panels and wind turbines draw immediate attention, allowing sustainability efforts to stand out from the crowd. At these high profile locations, on-site renewable energy is truly a win-win, spreading awareness and promoting sustainability among fans, who are increasingly asking venues, “Why haven’t you invested in renewable energy yet?”. Sustainability in sports is a clear home run, positively influencing both the bottom line and our energy conscious culture.

Shifting the way an entire industry consumes energy may sound like a lofty goal, but in practice, transitioning to renewable energy is now quite simple. An energy audit identifies opportunities to implement renewable energy, and allows a custom solution to be designed to target the specific needs of a facility. These solutions can be installed with minimal capital expenditures, thanks to financial tools such as Power Purchase Agreements. With so many compelling benefits, and such few implementation barriers, powering a stadium with clean, renewable energy is a goal worth setting. After all, if teams are making great strides on the field, why shouldn’t we expect the same of the fields themselves?

Ryan Gilchrist is Assistant Director of Business Development at UGE, a leading developer of distributed renewable energy solutions for business and government.