Southeastern U.S. Jealous of Brazil’s Solar-Powered Sports

Guest Blog | July 10, 2014 | Energy Policy, Solar
Mineirão Stadium in Belo Horizonte, Brazil

This post was written by SACE Communications Intern, Taylor Lyon.

Watching the 2014 World Cup makes us wonder: Would solar sports arenas work here too?

On June 14th, the first ever World Cup match powered by solar energy was played. The 2014 World Cup is more than an exhibition of premier soccer; it’s an exhibition of premier solar energy, too. The world is being shown a blueprint of how to invest in low or zero-emission technologies. Accordingly, the United States, with our substantial sports culture, should be enthusiastic to jump on board with this innovative idea. Our Southeast region in particular has yet to take advantage of solar-powered sports, and should take a close look  and evaluate the benefits installing solar on our stadiums.

The World Cup’s first solar stadium, Mineirão, is equipped with 6,000 rooftop panels. Only 10% of the energy produced is needed to power the stadium; the other 90% is sent back to the grid and distributed to local consumers! Several other World Cup stadiums have been outfitted with solar as well. Maracanã Stadium has mounted solar panels surrounding the outer ring of the stadium, which generate enough energy to power 240 homes a year. Arena Pernambuco has more than 3,600 panels mounted on the ground that will be fed into the local energy grid, and will be used to power 6,000 households when the stadium is not in use. The remaining solar stadiums in Brazil —Estádio Nacional and Arena Fonte Nova—have similar installations that employ solar technology. With these stadiums being publicized through the media, solar energy and sustainable practices will be brought into awareness of millions of fans.

The eruption of solar power at the World Cup can be partially attributed to Yingli Solar—a China based company that is referred to as the largest PV module manufacturer in the world and frequently seen advertising in soccer stadiums around the world. In addition to installing thousands of solar panels and 30 off grid systems to stadiums in Brazil, Yingli has targeted residential consumers who can power their homes through net metering programs. The solar giant has garnered attention among U.S. sports, notably the New York Jets, and has collaborated with the U.S. Soccer Federation to advocate for solar energy. But have any sports arenas in the United States accommodated solar power?

Lincoln Financial Field—home of the Philadelphia Eagles

The answer is yes, actually – just not in the Southeast. Of the major professional sports teams in the United States, 38 out of 126 have incorporated some form of renewable energy; 18 of these teams utilize solar energy. Of these teams, the Philadelphia Eagles’ Lincoln Financial Field leads America in solar stadiums: 11,000 solar panels generate 30% of the stadiums power during games. Other sports venues, such as Pocono Raceway, Wells Fargo Arena, AT&T Park, and Staples Center, have jumped on the solar bandwagon. Pocono Raceway boasts almost 40,000 panels that power the track, and offsets over 3,000 tons of carbon emissions a year. Moreover, the excess energy produced is transferred back to the grid for consumer use. Though there seems to be a fair amount of solar powered sports throughout America, they appear to be absent in the Southeast.

ASU’s Wells Fargo Arena

Sports franchises and teams should be asking themselves, “Why haven’t we thought of renovating our arenas with solar? There’s an abundance of sunlight here.” If popular sports teams delve into solar, other businesses and organizations, as well as consumers, would become conscious of the benefits of renewable energy.

With states’ individual plans for EPA’s Clean Power Plan due in 2016, now is the time for Southeastern states to contemplate strategic opportunities for meeting their emissions goals. Given how many sports arenas we have in this region, perhaps a move toward solar energy to power sports venues could be part of the answer. Just as the stadiums in Brazil provide net metering services to local communities, sports arenas in the Southeast could provide similar opportunities here. Finally, investment in solar sports venues right in our backyard could contribute greatly toward cutting carbon emissions 30% by 2030. From government incentives to reduced operating costs, the benefits of going solar are almost as abundant as the sunlight itself.

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