With it being time for The Big Game, all eyes are on the gridiron and interest in football is in peak season.
If you’ve ever attended an NFL game in the United States, you may have missed the fact the stadium could have been powered with solar energy. These stadiums use many kilowatts of energy. And not only on game day. Many NFL stadiums house offices for daily staff, and also host concerts and other major events throughout the year. To better the environment and save money on their big energy spend, many NFL stadiums have turned to the sun for power. In fact, 23% of NFL stadiums across the country are powered by solar energy to some degree. And the NFL isn’t the only professional sports organization to embrace solar energy. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), “46 megawatts (MW) of solar capacity are operating at 37 professional sports facilities nationwide.” Read more about SEIA’s “Solar For The Win” detailed study of solar in professional sports.
The Environmental Impact of Game Day
Football fans have a lot of energy on gameday and it takes a lot of energy to meet their needs. As you can imagine, 70,000+ people descending on one area at one time is going to cause negative environmental impacts. Their method of transportation to and from the stadium causes pollution, the stadiums’ bright lights and mega screens use a lot of energy and so much more. The average game hosted in a stadium can use anywhere from 5-10 MW of electricity (1). That’s the equivalent of powering 5,000 American homes for that same length of game time. The NFL and many team organizations have noticed this and are making massive efforts to improve their energy efficiency, as well as cleaner energy options.
Super Bowl LVIII
In 2023, State Farm Stadium in Phoenix, Arizona hosts Super Bowl LVIII. Even though Phoenix gets over 300 days of sunshine every year, the stadium has not gotten its solar on. Opened in 2006, the gorgeous facility is known for its retractable roof, its stunning views of the desert from within the stadium and its remarkable retractable natural grass playing surface.
A natural grass surface is important to help reduce player injuries during the big game, but State Farm Stadium hosts hundreds of other events every year that would destroy the grass. The innovative facility shifts the 40-inch deep grass panels out of the stadium into a designated area where it can bask in Arizona’s sun while the stadium continues to earn “Site of the Year” accolades from event planners.
The NFL Green program, the league’s effort to mitigate the environmental costs of one of the biggest parties of the year, focuses on food recovery, community greening and renewable energy credits equivalents to the energy use total for the Super Bowl. Let’s take a look at powerhouse football stadiums powering the game with the sun!
Solar-Powered NFL Stadiums
#10 Arrowhead Stadium/Truman Sports Complex – Home of the Chiefs
System size: 25 kW, 308 total solar panels (2, 3)
- The Arrowhead Stadium solar system consists of three arrays.
- One array installed on the roof of the stadium, one on the University of Kansas Hospital Training Complex and one on the grounds by the practice facility.
- The arrays generate about 29,000 kWh of electricity a year.
#9 NRG Stadium- Home of the Houston Texans
System size: 180 kW, 600 total solar panels (4)
- NRG stadium in Houston’s solar system is made up of canopy structures and mounted arrays situated around the building.
- Another fun fact: they were the first professional football stadium in the country with LED lights shining on the field.
#8 Levi’s Stadium – Home of the San Francisco 49ers
System size: 375 kW – 1,162 total solar panels (5)
- The plan for these solar panels at Levi Stadium was to generate enough energy annually to offset the power consumed at the stadium during 49ers regular season home games, with a long-term goal of achieving “net zero” energy use.
- They have a panel array plus 3 unique solar bridges that serve as the main entry and exit avenues to the stadium, drawing power and attention to solar energy.
#7 M&T Bank Stadium – Home of the Baltimore Ravens
System size: 400 kW – 1,210 solar panels (6)
- The Raven’s home field generates around 460,000 kWh of electricity.
- This accounts for 15 % of the team headquarters’ electricity needs.
- Their system generates the same amount of electricity that would result in the release of approximately 317 tons of carbon dioxide with non-renewable sources.
- This is the equivalent emissions of nearly 13,000 tailgaters with propane grills, or 67 passenger vehicles annually, according to U.S. EPA data for the region.
#6 MetLife Stadium – Home of the New York Jets and Giants
System size: 350 kW – 1,350 total solar panels (7)
- Metlife Stadium hosts 2 pro football teams and 20+ games a season for football alone, so needed a way to lower their environmental impact.
- They came up with their solar system called “The Solar Ring.”
- It powers the stadium’s integrated LED lighting, display system and everyday electricity needs.
- Metlife is the only sports facility in the U.S. to have its roof lined with solar panels.
#5 CenturyLink Field – Home of the Seattle Seahawks
System size: 800 kW – 3,750 total solar panels. (8)
- Responding to the environmental interests of Seattle sports fans, this stadium set out to go green and that plan included an on-site solar array.
- The solar project is spread over 2.5 acres, covering 80 % of the event center roof.
- This project consists of 3,750 thin-film solar panels, which “generate more than 830,000 kWh of electricity annually”.
- According to the stadium this is enough to “power 95 Seattle-area homes for a year“.
- The combined energy projects resulted in a 21 % reduction in annual utility costs.
- This reduced the facility’s carbon footprint by about 1,350 metric tons of carbon emissions per year.
#4 Gillette Stadium & Patriot Place – Home of the New England Patriots
System size: 1 MW (1,000 kW) – 3,000+ panel solar canopy (9)
- Delivers approximately 60% of the energy used in the complex.
- Gillette’s solar system supplies approximately 30% of Patriot Place’s power and spans seven building rooftops at the complex.
- The stadium boasts its system will generate more than “12 million kWh of electricity over 20 years“, and will “prevent the release of more than 8,800 metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere“.
- The stadium and its energy efficiency has previously won best renewable energy product in New England.
#3 Mercedes-Benz Stadium – Home of the Atlanta Falcons (and SEC Championship)
System size: 1.3 MW (1,300 kW) – Over 4,000 solar panels (10)
- This Atlanta stadium produces around 1.6 million kilowatt hours of renewable energy per year.
- This amounts to enough energy to power 9 Atlanta Falcons games, or 13 Atlanta United matches if you’re a fan of the other kind of football.
- This innovative stadium is designed to be extremely energy efficient, and with the use of renewable energy sources reduces electrical use by 29%.
#2 FedEx Field – Home of the Washington Football Team
System size: 2 MW (3,000 kW) – 8,000 total solar panels (11)
- It can produce enough power to meet 20% of the stadium’s power needs on game days and all of its power on non-game days.
- This solar panel system decreases FedExField’s annual energy usage by 15%.
- FedEx Field is the largest solar power installation in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area.
#1 Lincoln Financial Field – Home of the Philadelphia Eagles
System size: 3 MW (3,000 kW) – Using a whopping 11,108 solar panels (12)
- Their truly impressive green energy program also incorporates 14 wind turbines.
- This system provides roughly 33% of the stadium’s annual energy usage and is 6 times the amount needed to power all 10 home games each season.
- This system is LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold Certified. (13)
As you can see, these solar panel-incorporating stadiums shine. And for more reasons than one. These NFL stadiums each have their own green master plans and environmental initiatives that go beyond solar energy. They’re also making important moves like recycling, composting, water-conserving and reusing, hosting electric vehicle charging stations, switching to LED lighting and more.
Many of these stadiums, such as Seattle and Washington, also intersect on ESPN’s Top NFL Stadiums, making them energy efficient and the best stadiums to visit.
Honorable mention: Sofi Stadium
In 2022 the Super Bowl was hosted at the brand new, state of the art Sofi Stadium in Los Angeles, California. The goliath of the sports and entertainment complex was completed in the Fall of 2020 and boasts an unmatched design and experience. The beautiful, translucent roof with openable and closable panels, the 120-yards-long hanging video board that is 2.2 million pounds, “field cabana” seating, the view, all of it makes for a football experience like no other.
Though Sofi doesn’t have its own solar system, it has proven its commitment to sustainable operations. Their sustainability plan includes energy and water management features from efficient lighting to low flow water fixtures, responsible sourcing, keeping an eye on their carbon impact and transportation, waste management and landfill diversion and finally engagement and outreach for sustainability education.
Solar’s #1 Fan
One of the reasons these stadiums are taking such a public stance at energy efficiency is so the beloved football brands can bring awareness to the options people have for their home to help the environment. Powerful solar energy isn’t just limited to the pros. A home solar energy system for your residence is a touchdown that deserves a celebration! We’re guessing your home consumes a lot less energy than these massive NFL stadiums do, so you’ll only need a system a fraction of the size. Good news for you, the cost for PV solar has gone down 82% in the last decade, making solar more available and affordable for every football fan. Are you rooting for Joe Burrow and his Bengals Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs, Jalen Hurts and the Eagles or maybe the Forty-Niners and the miraculous Mr. Irrelevant Brock Purdy? Whoever’s jersey you’re wearing, you can still call it a win by going solar.
Gatorfan252525, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Common
All-Pro Reels, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Century Link Field
kallerna, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Troutfarm27, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Lincoln Financial Field
The original uploader was Betp at French Wikipedia. – modifications by User:Maps and stuff: perspective correction to straighten foreground goalpost; cropped part of sky to match aspect ratio of side-by-side image in the Philadelphia article’s montage-style infobox; removed large ad at far side of field by cloning., CC BY-SA 3.0 <http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/>, via Wikimedia Commons