While some members of Congress continue trying to undermine federal energy programs that promote efficiency and clean fuels, D.C.'s own Washington Redskins football team is plunging ahead. The team has just announced a partnership with energy giant NRG to build a 2 megawatt solar array at FedEx Field. That's enough to generate all the electricity for the stadium on non-game days, as well as offset some power use on game days. More to the point, the solar panels will be located in a parking lot where they will be visible to all, and NRG will brand one of the entry gates with a renewable energy showcase. In other words, the Redskins and NRG will enable thousands, and perhaps millions, of sports fans to become more familiar with solar technology that they might not otherwise encounter in their daily lives, and demonstrate how alternative energy can fit seamlessly into America's energy landscape.
As for FedEx, the global shipping company is already heavily engaged in clean energy and energy efficiency projects, but for the most part these fly under the public radar. The solar project at FedEx Field gives the company a chance to link its name with a high-visibility project and build public awareness of its sustainability leadership.
Sports and Sustainability
The Redskins' embrace of solar energy is part of a broad sustainability program push being undertaken by professional sports across the board. The NFL got a head start several years ago when it started greening the Superbowl, and other sports are scrambling to catch up. That includes professional golf and Major League Baseball as well as hockey and the NASCAR circuit.
Solar Power and the Washington Redskins
The new solar array will cover more than 800 parking spots at FedEx Field's Platinum A1 parking lot with about 8,000 solar panels. The array will also double as a covered parking lot. Solar parking lots provide a number of benefits aside from generating low cost renewable energy on site. If electricity can be sold back to the grid, solar parking lots provide property owners with a means of extracting value from acreage that otherwise goes unused for long periods of time. They also help to extend the lifespan of vehicles by providing shelter from weather, and they help conserve fuel by providing shade, which reduces cool-down time in hot cars. For the Redskins, a significant added attraction is the shelter a solar roof can provide to tailgaters when the weather is nasty.
Renewable Energy Front and Center
NRG's FedEx Field project also includes a dedicated entry plaza at Gate A, which the company will use to showcase new energy tech. To demonstrate how far the technology can range from the sturdy, opaque panels that will form the solar parking lot, the Gate A installation will include artwork in the form of thin film solar sculptures, and an array of translucent solar panels. Charging stations for ten electric vehicles are also included.
Image credit: FedEx Field by Kevin Coles on flickr.com.
Tina writes frequently for TriplePundit and other websites, with a focus on military, government and corporate sustainability, clean tech research and emerging energy technologies. She is a former Deputy Director of Public Affairs of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, and author of books and articles on recycling and other conservation themes. She is currently Deputy Director of Public Information for the County of Union, New Jersey. Views expressed here are her own and do not necessarily reflect agency policy.