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Solar Energy Is a Winning Play for the NFL


Five stadiums across the country will be utilizing solar energy in 2014 to offset electricity costs on game day and beyond.

Have you ever thought about how much electricity is used during a professional sporting event like an NFL game? You've got high-powered lights to illuminate the field at night, and lights to illuminate the inner arteries of the stadium so people can safely move about. Count in the power required to cook all of those hamburgers, french fries, chicken fingers, popcorn, hot dogs, corndogs, and pretzels. We also can't forget that no one likes drinking warm beer, soda, or water, so keeping our favorite beverages chilled is also another massive energy consumer. Add in military-grade sound systems, gigantic high-definition TVs (we're especially looking at you Dallas), escalators, as well as numerous other functions, and the electricity usage on game day can be a minimum 10 megawatts and frequently is as high 15 megawatts.

Here's the mind-blowing stat of the day: On game day, the Dallas Cowboys' stadium uses more electricity than the entire African country of Liberia.

Until recently, virtually none of the electricity used at games came from clean sources, but in fairness, until recently there wasn't a demand for Wi-Fi, in-stadium dance clubs, or obscenely huge high-definition TVs at games. In 2014, there will be five stadiums in the NFL that are at least partially powered by solar energy. Those five gems include Metlife Stadium (NUSE: MET) (home of the New York Jets and New York Giants), Lincoln Financial Field (home of the Philadelphia Eagles), FedEx Field (NYSE: FDX) (home of the Washington Redskins), Patriot Place (complex around the New England Patriot's Gillette Stadium (NYSE: PG), and the crown jewel, Levi's Stadium (home-to-be of the San Francisco 49ers.)

While any step to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and shrink our carbon footprint is a great move, the new 49ers home will be the gold standard when it comes to energy production and usage at stadiums. Levi's Stadium will be net zero, meaning that its all-year power generation will offset the energy consumption of game days. The new field is currently in the process of construction next to the organization's headquarters in Santa Clara, CA, and actually just installed the 49th and final giant solar frame (which contains a total of 544 solar panels, with an efficiency of 20%). Other unique and advanced aspects of the complex include several solar-array-covered bridges and a solar canopy, so when fully operational, the stadium will be harvesting the power of the Sun from approximately 20,000 square feet of solar panels.

Other articles on my website have mentioned that location matters less for solar energy production than good policy and leadership. This is definitely true, but places can be optimized for solar energy use, and football fields represent great optimization opportunities. With the correct planning in mind, the large quantities of space that stadiums consume can be optimized to harvest the Sun's energy all year long. Though there may only be eight regular season NFL games played at the grounds, there are also preseason games, concerts, and other athletic contests that require huge amounts of electricity, too. When energy isn't being used directly for the games, it can be sold back to the grid to supply others with clean power.

Editor's note: This article by Jeremy Gottlieb was originally published on Mosaic.

Mosaic is the online platform connecting investors with high quality solar projects; we invite everyone to participate in the clean energy economy.

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