- By Independent Power Systems
Across the country and around the world, professional sports stadiums dominate skylines and create a sense of pride for their communities. Although empty for the most part during the global pandemic, these structures—occupied or otherwise—consume massive amounts of energy each year and face unique challenges when it comes to operating sustainably.
For instance, American professional baseball stadiums average an enormous 1 million square feet in size and typically host over 70 minion fans, collectively in a year. Depending on their construction, these stadiums can consume millions of kilowatt-hours (kWh) annually under normal operation. From running the jumbotron and the outfield lighting to cooking hotdogs and other concessions, it takes a lot to power “America’s Pastime.”
Fortunately, some ballclubs have started looking at renewable energy sources like solar to help lower their environmental footprints and ensure more sustainable operations. So far, ten of the thirty Major League Baseball (MLB) stadiums have added solar panels to their roster, and baseball is not the only sport taking advantage. Solar installations are currently being utilized at NFL, NBA, NHL, MLS, NASCAR, and IndyCar venues as well. All told, America’s sports stadiums have built over 46 megawatts of solar capacity, half of which came online after 2015.
SUSTAINABILITY IN MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL
A single MLB stadium may use upwards of tens of millions of kWh each year, depending on seating capacity and attendance. Additional stadium features like retractable roofing or large screens will also dictate peak energy consumption. To help with these colossal energy demands, MLB stadiums are turning to commercial solar panels and other energy efficiency improvements to lower their costly energy bills and carbon footprints.
The expansive physical footprint of professional ballparks often offers plenty of location options for integrating solar. Among the ten solar-powered MLB stadiums, solar panels have been installed in the outfield, on ticketing buildings, parking garages, and stand-alone pavilions. The systems vary in size, allowing some stadiums to power hundreds of small televisions or one giant television (the scoreboard) or even an entire front office building.
While embracing solar helps lower a stadium’s energy bills, it also demonstrates the organization’s environmental values to the fans, which can go a long way in building a team and community pride. Professional sports venues have an incredible opportunity when it comes to promoting and showcasing sustainability improvements, as well as educating their fans on the need for renewable energy, in particular. Millions of fans typically enter stadiums every year, but there’s also enormous overlap between professional sports and other major industries that are involved either as sponsors or as vendors. Given their high cultural significance, professional sports teams can have a big impact on the environment.
Besides solar, the MLB has also embraced a many sustainable strategies to lower the environmental impact of its parks, including waste diversion, composting, water conservation, and energy efficiency improvements for lighting and HVAC. For example, nineteen ballparks have switched to LEDs for their field lighting, and twelve ballparks have built on-site gardens that provide concessions and restaurants with fresh, ultra-local food.
IS YOUR TEAM SOLAR POWERED?
Here are the ten MLB stadiums that are currently taking their game to the next level with solar power.
Busch Stadium – St. Louis Cardinals
Chase Field – Arizona Diamondbacks
Coors Field – Colorado Rockies
Fenway Park – Boston Red Sox
Kauffman Stadium – Kansas City Royals
Nationals Park – Washington Nationals
Oracle Park – San Francisco Giants
Petco Park – San Diego Padres
Progressive Field – Cleveland Indians
T-Mobile Park – Seattle Mariners
BUSCH STADIUM – ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
It is essential to keep up with the times. Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Missouri, installed 106 solar panels on the roof of the ticket building and atop a canopy in the left-centerfield bleachers in 2012.
The Busch Stadium solar power system is expected to generate 32,000 kWh each year, which will offset the grid power used by stadium operations, reduce electricity bills, and save the organization a significant amount of money over the life of the system.
CHASE FIELD – ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS
Chase Field in Phoenix has no shortage of sunshine. Fans of the Arizona Diamondbacks have some reprieve from the intense Arizona sun during games in the form of the 17,280 square foot APS Solar Pavilion. Completed in 2011, the 77.3 kW solar system provides around 100,000 kWh of energy each year or enough to power 11 of the park’s home games.
The Chase Field solar system features 336 Solon 230 W solar panels elevated to form a canopy outside the stadium’s west entrance, where roughly 75% of attendees enter the park. Arizona Public Service (APS), the local investor-owned utility, owns the system and any Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs) produced by the system, which helps the utility meet the state’s renewable energy mandates. APS plans to use the system, which has an expected lifespan of 20 years, as a technical demonstration project for charging batteries and electric vehicles from the sun.
The Diamondbacks have also installed low-flow sinks and toilets, LED concourse lights, and electric vehicle charging stations at Chase Field. Other green efforts include a vertical urban garden and concession uniforms made from recycled plastic.
COORS FIELD – COLORADO ROCKIES
The Colorado Rockies became one of the first professional baseball clubs to go solar when they added a 9.89 kW high-efficiency commercial solar power system just in time for Opening Day 2007.
In total, the system produces over 14,000 kWh annually—enough to offset the consumption of the Rockpile LED board each year. In the walkway just beneath the system, a flat-panel monitoring system displays the real-time consumption of the Rockpile LED board and the real-time energy production from the solar array.
FENWAY PARK– BOSTON RED SOX
Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox, is one of the oldest stadiums in use, but that doesn’t mean the ballpark was slow to get with the times. In 2008, the team took a slightly different approach to clean energy, installing 28 solar thermal panels behind the home plate. Instead of generating electricity, these solar thermal panels use the sun to heat the park’s water, which means less energy and expense is needed for gas-powered water heaters.
The panels have reduced the natural gas demand for water heating by 37%, avoiding 18 tons of CO2 emissions annually.
Following a 2010 complete energy audit of their facility, Fenway’s stadium operators also began a series of sustainability upgrades and initiatives throughout the park, including LED retrofits and the creation of recycling and composting programs.
KAUFFMAN STADIUM – KANSAS CITY ROYALS
Once the largest in-stadium solar power system in the league, the 120 solar panels on the roof of Kaufman Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri, are a testament to the Kansas City Royals’ commitment to sustainability and maximizing renewable energy resources at the ballpark.
Installed in 2012 by KCP&L, the 28.8 kW system produces approximately 36,000 kWh each year, which is enough to offset a small portion of the stadium’s annual energy use (or to power four to six regular-sized homes). The solar installation was a part of a wider green campaign that includes food composting programs and energy efficiency improvements for the outfield fountains that celebrate every Royals’ home run.
NATIONALS PARK – WASHINGTON NATIONALS
When Nationals Park opened in 2008, it made headlines as the first U.S. sports stadium to earn the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Silver certification. Energy-efficient lighting, low-flow water features, and a 6,000 square foot green roof just beyond left field all helped Nationals Park earn it’s certified green building status.
In 2019, the Washington Nationals announced they were taking their commitment to sustainability to the next level by adding 4,080 solar panels integrated into a solar canopy above two parking garages. The 1.46 megawatt (MW) solar array is the largest at any MLB stadium, generating approximately 1,890 megawatt-hours (MWh) of electricity annually, enough to cover 10% of the park’s energy demand.
ORACLE PARK – SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
Oracle Park, formerly AT&T Park, was one of the first solar adopters in the MLB. In 2007 the Giants, in partnership with PG&E, installed 590 Sharp solar panels in three different locations in the park for a total system power output of 123 kW. Introduced at the 2007 All-Star Game, the system is expected to generate enough energy annually to power the Giant’s scoreboard. However, most of the system’s production will be fed back into the grid served by PG&E for use by customers throughout Central and Northern California.
Complimenting their renewable energy efforts, the SF Giants also host a league-leading recycling program. The Green Glove is an award given every year to the MLB park with the highest waste diversion rate. Oracle Park has won the Green Glove ten out of the eleven years that it’s been available.
PETCO PARK – SAN DIEGO PADRES
San Diego has not won a World Series yet, but take solace Padre fans, you’ve got a lot of sun and the largest in-stadium solar installation (for now). In 2018, Petco Park added a 336.52 kW solar panel system consisting of 716 high-efficiency SunPower X-series 470 W commercial solar modules, completed by March, just before Opening Day. The system is expected to generate over 12 million kWh and $4 million in energy savings for the ballpark over the predicted 25-year lifespan of the panels.
In addition to the large solar installation on the ballpark’s upper deck roof canopy, the Padres have also undertaken various other efficiency improvements throughout the facility, including replacing 768 metal halide light fixtures with 400 LED equivalent fixtures in 2015.
PROGRESSIVE FIELD – CLEVELAND INDIANS
Like the Rockies and Giants, the Cleveland Indians were another adopter of on-site renewable energy, installing a 42-panel solar electric system at the aptly-named Progressive Field in June 2007. According to the Indians, the 8.4 kW solar power system generates enough energy to power the stadium’s more than 400 televisions. In 2019, it was announced that the Indians would be adding additional solar powered panels on the roof to reduce energy costs further and expand the ballclub’s sustainability initiatives.
Progressive Field also holds the distinction of being the first MLB stadium to install a wind turbine. However, the demo project by Cleveland State University had to be terminated early due to wind damage sustained by the experimental turbine during the off-season.
T-MOBILE PARK – SEATTLE MARINERS
In 2012, the Mariners installed a 32.76 kW system on top of the parking garage at T-Mobile Park (formerly Safeco Field). The persistent cloud cover does not stop the 168 Panasonic solar panels from producing an average of 40,000 kWh each year, which is fed into the T-Mobile Park distribution grid. That is enough to offset 28 metric tons of CO2 emissions.
All told, there is currently over 2.1 MW of installed solar capacity in America’s MLB stadiums. In addition to lowering their energy bills and environmental footprints, these ballparks are demonstrating their commitment to renewable energy and sustainability in front of a global audience. While there is no firm evidence that solar power will mean a better season for the home team, it should be noted that—over the past 20 years—10 World Series Champions have had solar-powered stadiums.