On September 14, the San Francisco 49ers played the first game at their new home, Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California. Though it has its detractors, the new stadium is one of the most energy efficient sports venues in the world. The 49ers partnered with clean energy leader NRG Energy to install a 375 kW solar power system across the stadium. The installation will generate enough electricity annually to offset the power consumed during all home games.
In addition to onsite power generation, the stadium has installed low-flow water fixtures in all bathrooms, and water is reclaimed whenever possible to be reused for irrigation and other purposes. A 27,000 SF green roof provides extra insulation and reduces the demand for heating and cooling. Whenever possible, the builders used recycled and reclaimed materials during construction. All of these features have led to Levi’s Stadium being the first U.S. professional football stadium to achieve LEED Gold certification.
Unfortunately for San Francisco fans, the 49ers lost their opening home game to another team that has made a commitment to sustainability. The Chicago Bears completed a full renovation of the iconic Soldier Field in 2003, making it a goal to improve performance and efficiency while also reducing the stadium’s carbon footprint. These efforts also earned recognition from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) in the form of a LEED – Existing Building Certification. Although Soldier Field does not have any onsite renewable power generation, it does boast many energy saving features, such as LED lighting with a networked control system and a green roof on the parking structure.
Given their very high energy usage, many other stadiums around the world have implemented efficiency features. The most popular are efficient lighting/control systems and low-flow water fixtures. More capital-intensive projects to install renewable power generation on stadiums are also becoming common. Lincoln Financial Field, home of the Philadelphia Eagles, has the ability to generate 3,000 kW of renewable electricity onsite, the most of any stadium. Eleven thousand solar panels have been installed, along with 14 eye-catching vertical axis wind turbines, which are intended to be a visual representation of the team’s commitment to sustainability. FedEx Field outside of Washington, D.C. and MetLife Stadium in New Jersey boast 2,000 kW and 314 kW of generating capacity, respectively.
Two other highly efficient stadiums belong to two of the league’s top teams. The Seattle Seahawks and the New England Patriots are both powerhouse teams, likely to meet in this season’s Super Bowl in Arizona. Seattle’s CenturyLink Field produces 830,000 kWh annually with an onsite solar installation. The Patriots’ home field in Foxborough, Massachusetts also features solar power generation, a 525 kW array installed by NRG Energy. One of the distinctive features of this stadium is an integrated building energy management system that optimizes HVAC, lighting, and other systems.
Sports teams have a unique ability to influence their home communities in positive ways; their visible commitments to sustainability tend to have ripple effects throughout the community. Energy efficient stadiums support local green businesses that are able to put their expertise on display in large-scale projects. Saving energy and money and helping fans understand the impacts of their actions is a win for everyone.