Power Hitters: MLB Stadiums and Solar

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 million 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.

Chart of solar powered ballparks in the MLB

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 multitude of other sustainability 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.

NATIONALS PARK

NATIONALS PARK

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.

Is it a coincidence that the Nationals installed the largest solar power system in the Major Leagues and then went on to win the World Series the same year? We’ll let you decide.

Read more about the sustainable elements of Nationals Park here.

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