The Philadelphia Eagles football team has already established a leadership position in the field of sports sustainability, and it is just about to one-up itself. Barely over a year after the team announced a partnership with Solar Blue to generate renewable energy at its home stadium Lincoln Field, it has just announced a similarly ambitious plan with energy giant NRG Energy.
When completed in December 2012, the new project will generate more than six times the power needed for Eagles home games. If that estimate bears out, it's a pretty safe bet that other stadium owners will begin to realize that their oft-idled real estate could be put to use full time as a resource for generating clean, renewable energy.
Big plans for a solar powered football stadium
When announced in November 2010, the Eagles planned a 2500-panel solar installation along with futuristic spiral-shaped wind turbines and a cogeneration plant. Unfortunately, that project was later deemed unfeasible but the partnership with NRG picks up where it left off. The new partnership will result in a three megawatt solar installation designed by DLR Group with 11,000 panels, making it the largest solar power system not only in the National Football League but in the Philadelphia region as well. The installation will also include fourteen micro wind turbines.
Using football as a teachable solar power moment
As with other sports teams that are installing solar power (notably, the Washington Redskins), the Eagles have designed the new installation as a showcase for renewable energy, rather than trying to disguise it. Most of the energy will be generated from panels installed in the stadium parking lots but part of the stadium facade will also sport panels, which effectively puts renewable energy front and center in the fan experience. To hammer home the point, the new wind turbines will also have a high visibility location topping the stadium.
Renewable energy turns empty real estate into valuable property
Just to underscore how far things have come in just a few short years, back in 2005 it was a big deal when the Eagles went down to St. Louis to play the Rams in what was billed as a "climate-neutral" football game, in which the group StopGlobalWarming.org arranged to purchase offsets for energy used by the stadium. Now the Eagles will be able to generate their own renewable energy at their own stadium, with the potential to become a renewable energy supplier to the grid. For all the sports facilities, industrial parks and other built environments in which large swaths of real estate sit unused for long periods of time, renewable energy is providing property owners with a new resource to build a better bottom line.
Creating a green identity and new green jobs, too
Aside from boosting the bottom line for the stadium owners, the new solar and wind installation could also have a ripple effect on the local economy by helping to cement Philadelphia's emerging identity as a destination for tech start-ups. Two other recent examples are Ameresco's gigantic sewage-to-biogas facility and the Philadelphia Navy Yard Energy Innovation Hub, which will focus on energy efficiency technology for buildings.
Follow Tina Casey on Twitter: @TinaMCasey.
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.