Redskins installing solar panels at FedEx


Artist's rendering of solar panels, expected to decrease game-day energy use at FedEx Field by 15 percent and provide 850 covered parking spaces. (Artist's rendering by NRG/Artist's rendering by NRG)

The Washington Redskins are installing 8,000 solar panels in a FedEx Field parking lot that will generate enough electricity to supply a portion of the stadium’s power on game days and all of its electricity the rest of the week, according to people with knowledge of the organization’s plans.

Construction is underway in the team’s Platinum A1 parking lot to set up panels that will generate two megawatts of electricity — enough to decrease FedEx Field’s annual energy use by 15 percent, according to people within the organization. The panels also will be used to create an 850-space covered carport that will feature 10 charging stations for electric vehicles.

The construction is part of a nine-year agreement with a Princeton, N.J., firm, NRG Energy, which owns and operates one of the country’s largest and most diverse power generation portfolios. The company will install three different types of solar panels at the stadium. The cost of the effort could not be ascertained Tuesday.

The Redskins are expected to fully unveil their plans Wednesday.

The project is scheduled to be completed by the start of the 2011 season. That would make the Redskins one of the few NFL teams to use alternative sources of energy at their stadiums.

According to David Krichavsky, the NFL’s director of media affairs, the Philadelphia Eagles and Seattle Seahawks also have projects underway to decrease their dependency on traditional energy sources.

The Eagles’ plan is combine the use of on-site wind turbines, solar and bio-fuel systems at Lincoln Financial Field to generate as much as 8.6 megawatts of power upon completion. The stadium at its peak uses roughly 7 megawatts of power.

The Seattle Seahawks in May began installing a 2.5-acre solar array on the Qwest Field event center next to the football team’s stadium. The 3,750 panel system won’t power all of Qwest Field, but will enable the Seahawks to cut their energy costs by 21 percent, according to Clean Energy Authority, an organization that tracks developments in solar technology and the solar energy industry.

“It makes great sense from the public awareness standpoint, but it’s also good business sense,” Krichavsky says. “It’s one of those things that’s a double or triple win. . . . We believe that we are responsible in our community to act responsibly on multiple fronts, but also in environmental leadership.”

The planners of the new San Francisco 49ers stadium, which will open in 2014, also have proposed using solar panels to partially power the stadium. The Eagles, New York Jets and New England Patriots have solar panels at their practice facilities, Krichavsky said.

The Arizona Cardinals don’t have any solar or wind power sources at University of Phoenix Stadium but the team offsets 100 percent of its energy use on game days by partnering with a local electric or solar and wind company to buy renewable energy credits from a facility located elsewhere.

Krichavsky said he expects more teams to increase efforts to find alternative sources of energy in coming years.

Pro sports “venues provide great publicity for solar and renewables in general,” said Chris Meehan of Clean Energy Authority. “They reach a far broader audience than most other publicity efforts and they make solar sexier by tying it to something that people enjoy.”

Mike Taylor, director of research for the Solar Electric Power Association said the Redskins’ effort “is the equivalent of other iconic type buildings nationally or regionally — governors’ mansions or the White House, Congress or state legislature buildings, military base, influential company headquarters, Google or IBM.”

Separately, the Redskins are renovating the stadium to install two large party decks in the upper deck end zone areas. That project, which involves removing roughly 5,000 seats began this year and will be completed in 2012.

Mike Jones covers the Washington Redskins for The Washington Post. When not writing about a Redskins development of some kind – which is rare – he can be found screaming and cheering at one of his kids’ softball, baseball, soccer or basketball games.
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