We’ve compiled an overview of the 50 biggest solar systems connected to stadiums and sports venues worldwide!
Sports, due to their ability to reach enormous numbers of fans worldwide, have long been a vital platform for value promotion.
The prevalence of solar energy has drastically increased in past years. This phenomenon does not only hold true for utility-scale solar power plants but increasingly for smaller scale applications as well. The attractiveness of solar energy has also penetrated the entertainment sector.
Sports, due to their ability to reach enormous numbers of fans worldwide, have long been a vital platform for value promotion. The concepts of sustainability and energy efficiency have become the subject of increased focus lately. An ever-growing number of sports venues have taken on the use of solar energy in an attempt to improve the sustainable profile of their power generation.
In many cases, the solarization of stadiums and other sport venues was achieved through wide-scale initiatives. One of the largest initiative of this sort was the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) decision to include environmental protection measures (Green Programs —“the third pillar of Olympics games”) as one of the requirements for a successful bid to host the Games. PV systems and heat collectors have been popular renewable energy technologies that have been used both in olympic stadiums and in the supporting facilities.
In other cases, however, stadium and venue management opts for the utilization of PV and other solar technology as a result of a conscious, economic decision. The cost of installing and operating solar panels have dropped so sharply that the economic benefits significantly outweigh the costs.
Our Top 50 list of solar venues spans across the entire globe, though some regions clearly provided more contributions more than others. North America, home to nearly half of the listed venues, has proven to be largest solar sports superpower. Europe, not far behind the leader, counts 14 of the largest solarized sports venues. The main European countries with the largest solar-powered solar venues are the Netherlands and Germany counting 7 and 3 venues respectively, followed by France and the United Kingdom hosting 1 each. South America and Asia tie third place with 6 venues each. Oceania is home to 3 of the 50 venues, all of which are located in Australia.
Before 2008, only 3 venues made it to the list whereas the period between 2010 and 2015 witnessed the commissioning of nearly 80% of all venues. Although 2016 and 2017 have been somewhat slower than expected, the attractiveness for venues to utilize solar energy as a way to increase sustainability and provide an economic cushion for expenses will surely drive further growth in this sector.
European solar venues
Europe, home to some of the best sports teams across many disciplines, has been instrumental in the quest to promote sustainability. Considering the popularity of football in comparison to virtually any other sport, it comes as no surprise that the majority of our Top 15 European solar venues have, are connected with football (soccer) while also featuring car racing and ice skating venues.
The main drive for the adoption solar energy into European stadium infrastructure, a concept also referred to as Solar Stadia, was when the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) started the “Green Goal” program as a way to specifically address environmental concerns. The program was created in 2003 but its first debut was not until the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany and the 2008 UEFA (Union of European Football Associations) Cup in Switzerland.
The solar venue sector has certainly come a long way since the first reported instance a stadium was added solar panels to it in Europe. With the addition of a 259 kWp power capacity PV generators on its rooftop, the Badenova-Stadio (Mage Solar Stadio), located in Freiburg, Germany has started a trend that would catch on years later all across Europe.
Many of the venues that are registered in the European Top 15 list are home to teams playing in the best professional football divisions. These divisions include the Eredivisie, Ligue 1, Bundesliga and Serie A which are top football divisions in the Netherlands, France, Germany and Italy.
The title for the sports venue with largest solar capacity went for the TT circuit in Assen, Netherlands. The car and motor racing venue harvests the sun through its 21,000 installed solar panels that together account for a peak capacity of whooping 5,600 kWp. The second largest venue with a considerably lower solar capacity is the BSC Young Boys’ stadium in Bern, Switzerland. This solar system’s capacity amounted to 1,350 kWp and consisted off 8,000 panels.
Mounting solar panels on or nearby stadiums is not the only way for venues to make themselves more sustainable. As a result of a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with English investor giant Octopus Energy, Arsenal has become the first team in the Premier League to be 100% sustainable in their energy consumption. By completely sourcing its energy from renewable sources, the Gunners will manage to save 2.32 million kg of carbon dioxide per year, which translates to the equivalent weight of a 183 double-decker buses, or the annual CO2 emissions of 580 fans.
Going green in such a manner, however, no longer requires the monetary concessions many would rightfully assume Arsenal can afford for the sake of being the first. As Greg Jackson, chief executive of Octopus Energy, put it “Green energy is at a tipping point, the technology to create electricity from renewable sources is now so efficient, that we can offer ‘green’ energy to our customers which is cheaper than many ‘non green’ tariffs”.
South American solar venues
South America has long been a region with outstanding solar conditions although some countries make use of these assets more than others. Chile is known for having the most developed solar market in the region, however, when it comes to solar venues this title goes to its western neighbor, Brazil. An honorable mention goes out to Costa Rica as well, the only other Latin American country to feature a solar powered stadium.
Although Brazil’s solar market is not even in the same ballpark as Chile’s, a single event caused Brazil to significantly surpass its South American stadium solarization. Perhaps the most noteworthy effort to increase sustainability came when the privilege to organize the 2014 World Cup was awarded to Rio de Janeiro by the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA). This move entailed the partial reconstruction of Brazil’s largest football stadiums according to the sustainability guidelines of FIFA.
As a result of the reconstruction, 4 of the 12 football stadiums were amended with solar panels, making Brazil a solar venue superpower. The largest Brazilian venue in terms of its solar capacity is the Estádio Nacional Mané Garrincha with its 9,600 panels that together make up a solar system with a capacity of 2,500 kWp.
In second place is the Estadio Mineirao, that bears a solar capacity of 1,420 kWp and has been the focus of much attention. This $16m solar innovation doesn’t just power the stadium – it sends energy to the local grid, enough to serve the electricity needs of nearly 1,000 homes per year. Once the redevelopment of the facility has finished, Mineirão became the first stadium in Brazil, second in the World, to receive the LEED Platinum Sustainability Certification (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, the highest level of the seal) granted by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) due to management of resources (energy, water, etc.) performed by the building.
North American solar venues
The landscape of solar venues in North America is not very diverse, as all reported cases hail from the United States of America. What is more diverse though, is the number of sports disciplines that have taken on this novel solution to become more sustainable. In the list of our Top 25 solar venues 5 different sports are represented. The list includes the members of the nation’s largest associations such as the NFL, MLS, MLB and NBA.
The largest North American solar venue, which also holds the title for the largest solar venue globally, is the Indianapolis Motor Speedway which hosts the Indie 500. The venue is powered by nearly 40,000 solar panels amounting to a capacity of 9,000 kWp.
In second place came the home of the Philadelphia Eagles, the Lincoln Financial Field a significantly lower but still immense capacity of 3,000 kWp. The stadium’s renewable energy generation system is also equipped with 14 micro wind-turbines and is capable of a combined annual production of more than 4 times the power consumed during a season of home game days.
The third place goes to the Pocono Raceway located in Pennsylvania with almost 40,000 solar panels. This renewable energy capacity coupled with its recycling and tree planting program has made the venue one of the most environmentally conscious tracks in NASCAR.
The total solar venue capacity has come a long way since the first reported case of a professional sports facility installing solar panels on its roof. This pioneering achievement took place in 2007 when the Coors Field (home of the Colorado Rockies) installed a solar system with a capacity of 9.9 kW. Since then professional solar sports installations have grown immensely. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association in United States of America, the total cumulative solar power capacity in professional sports facilities reached 25.4 MWp in 2015 (a growth of 13% by year).
Similarly to the European example, sports venues are entering agreements with local energy providers to receive renewable energy. The Verizon center, home of the Capitals, Wizards, Mystics and Valor, will be provided with solar energy for 25% of its energy needs through a recent partnership with Virginia-based WGL Energy Services.
The spread of venue solarization projects would not only save major league sports millions of dollars in energy costs and cut carbon emissions by thousands of metric tons but may spearhead the solarization of the residential sector as football, baseball, basketball or car racing fans are exposed to the great qualities of this technology through the joyful activity of watching their favorite teams and athletes compete for victory.