A new champion of solar-powered stadiums

The San Francisco 49ers' new home field promises to be the greenest sports facility yet.

By Bruce Kennedy Mar 4, 2013 9:35AM

Project executive Jack Hill, right, and general superintendent Dave Masel at the 49ers new Santa Clara Stadium on Sept. 25, 2012 (© Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP Photo)Is it an example of corporations practicing responsible, cost-efficient environmental sustainability -- or a public relations exercise meant to help a fan base feel good about their sports team?


Maybe it's a bit of both. But either way, the new, $1.2 billion facility being built for the NFL's San Francisco 49ers is expected to be the "greenest" stadium in the league when it opens for business next year.


Last month, the 49ers announced that SunPower Corp. (SPWR) had been named "the official and exclusive solar technology partner of the San Francisco 49ers and the new Santa Clara Stadium."


SunPower will supply 400 kilowatts of high-efficiency solar panels for the stadium, the first such facility to incorporate solar power from the very start of construction. That amount of power is about equivalent to the electricity used by 100 homes on a typical day. But it's just a fraction of what the stadium will need overall. KGO-TV says on game days, the facility will require the same amount of electricity used to power 4,000 homes.


Still, the 49ers say over the course of a year, the panels will generate enough electricity to offset the power consumed by the stadium during the team's home games.


The solar panels won't just help showcase some state-of-the-art technology. They'll also be tied into three transformers that Silicon Valley Power says should prevent power outages like the embarrassing blackout that stopped play last month during the Superbowl in New Orleans.


Green technology, however, isn't that unusual at big American sports venues.


In fact, as Cleantechnica.com points out, MetLife (MET) Stadium, home of New York's Giants and Jets football teams, has solar panels that produce about 10% of the stadium's energy needs on game day. The Washington Redskins' FedEx (FDX) Field uses solar power to produce about 20% of that stadium’s energy needs. The Minnesota Vikings have a deal with a local wind power provider to offset energy used at the team's home games. And at least a half-dozen Major League Baseball venues use some wind or solar power.


"While spectator sporting events will never be 100% sustainable," Cleantechnica notes, "having leagues like the NFL [and] MLB on the side of green is important if environmental issues are going to continue to move forward in the conscious of the public."


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2Comments
Mar 7, 2013 5:19PM
Mar 4, 2013 9:44AM
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There could be one major problem with this plan - the sun shines about 6 days a year in San Fran.
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