Szabolcs Magyari, Solarplaza

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.


Antalya Arena - Antalya

Antalya Arena - Antalya

Top 50 Stadiums & Venues (F).png

Global Top 50

# Name Size (kWp) Team Sport* Location Country Year # panels
1 Indianapolis Motor Speedway 9,000 - Car / motor racing Speedway (Indiana) USA 2014 39,312
2 TT circuit Assen 5,600 - Car / motor racing Assen The Netherlands 2016 21,000
3 Lincoln Financial Field 3,000 Philadelphia Eagles American Football Philadelphia (Pennsylvania) USA 2010 11,000
4 Pocono Raceway 3,000 - Car / motor racing Blakeslee (Pennsylvania) USA 2010 39,960
5 Estádio Nacional Mané Garrincha 2,500 Brasília and Legião Futebol Clube Football Brasília (DF) Brazil 2013 9,600
6 Rio Tinto Stadium 2,020 Real Salt Lake Football Sandy (Utah) USA 2015 6,500
7 FedEx Field 2,000 Washington Redskins American Football Landover (Maryland) USA 2011 8,000
8 Mineirao 1,420 Cruzeiro, Atlético Mineiro Football Belo Horizonte (Minas Gerais) Brazil 2014 6,000
9 Antalya Arena 1,400 Antalyaspor Football Antalya Turkey 2015 5,600
10 Stade de Suisse 1,350 BSC Young Boys Football Bern Switzerland 2005 8,000
11 Thialf Ice Arena 1,350 - Ice Skating Heerenveen The Netherlands 2016 5,000
12 Allianz Riviera 1,342 OGC Nice Football Nice France 2013 4,000
13 Weser stadium 1,270 Werder Bremen Football Bremen Germany 2011
14 Johan Cruijff Arena 1,128 Ajax Football Amsterdam The Netherlands 2014 4,200
15 National Stadium (Kaohsiung) 1,000 - Other / not specified Kaohsiung Taiwan 2009 8,844
16 Thyagraj Stadium 1,000 - Other / not specified New Delhi India 2010
17 Itaipava Arena Pernambuco 1,000 Clube Náutico Capibaribe Football São Lourenço da Mata (Pernambuco) Brazil 2014 3,650
18 Gilette Stadium 1,000 New England Patriots American Football Foxborough (Massachussetts) USA 2012
19 Bentegodi-stadion 1,000 Hellas Verona and ChievoVerona Football Verona Italy 2009 13,300
20 Signal Iduna Park 924 Borussia Dortmund Football Dortmund Germany 2011 9,000
21 Galgenwaard 817 FC Utrecht Football Utrecht The Netherlands 2017 3,400
22 CenturyLink Field 800 Seattle Seahawks American Football Seattle (Washington) USA 2011 3,750
23 Kyocera stadion 725 ADO Den Haag Football The Hague The Netherlands 2014 2,900
24 TD Bank Ballpark 515 Somerset Patriots Baseball Bridgewater Township (New Jersey) USA 2013 3,456
25 Fonte Nova Arena 500 Esporte Clube Bahia Football Salvador (Bahia) Brazil 2014
26 Wells Fargo Arena 497 Arizona State Sun Devils American Football Tempe (Arizona) USA 2011 2,072
27 Pituaçu 403 Esporte Clube Bahia Football Salvador (Bahia) Brazil 2012
28 M. Chinnaswammy stadium 400 Royal Challengers Bangalore Other / not specified Bangalore India 2015 1,422
29 Estadio do Maracana 400 Fluminense Football Club Football Rio de Janeiro Brazil 2014 1,556
30 Levi’s Stadium 375 San Francisco 49ers American Football Santa Clara (California) USA 2014 1,162
31 Safeco Field 368 Seattle Mariners Baseball Seattle (Washington) USA 2012
32 Staples Center 364 LA Kings Basketball Los Angeles (California) USA 2013 1,727
33 Sonoma Raceway 354 - Car / motor racing Sonoma (California) USA 2013 1,652
34 Townsville RSL Stadium 348 Townsville fire Other / not specified Annandale (Towsnville) Australia 2012 1,800
35 Metlife Stadium 314 New York Jets American Football East Rutherford (New Jersey) USA 2012 1,350
36 De Meent IJsbaan 305 - Other / not specified Alkmaar The Netherlands 2015
37 The Hangar (Clear Channel Stadium) 300 Lancaster JetHawks Baseball Lancaster (California) USA 2010 1,500
38 Euroborg 273 FC Groningen Football Groningen The Netherlands 2014 1,100
39 Estadio Alejandro Morera Soto 260 Liga Deportiva Alajuelense Football Alajuela Costa Rica 2015 864
40 Schwarzwald-Stadion 259 SC Freiburg Football Freiburg Germany 1995
41 AFAS Stadion 245 AZ Football Alkmaar The Netherlands 2015 1,725
42 Talking Stick Resort Arena 227 Phoenix Suns Basketball Phoenix (Arizona) USA 2012 966
43 NRG Stadium 221 Houston Texans American Football Houston (Texas) USA 2015 600
44 Avaya Stadium 220 San Jose Earthquakes Football San Jose (California) USA 2015 882
45 Carrara football stadium 220 Gold Coast Suns Football Carrara Australia 2011 600
46 Oracle Arena 164 Golden State Warriors Basketball Oakland (California) USA 2010 537
47 Bird's Nest Olympic Stadium 130 - Other / not specified Beijing China 2008 1,100
48 AT&T Park 120 San Francisco Giants Baseball San Francisco (California) USA 2008 590
49 Bristol Sport's Ashton Gate Stadium 117 Bristol Football Club & Bristol Rugby Football Bristol United Kingdom 2016 460
50 Chase Field 75 Arizona Diamondbacks Baseball Phoenix (Arizona) USA 2012 336


Figure 1: An overview of the list of Top 50 solar venues based on location.


Our Top 50 list of solar venues spans across the entire globe, though some regions clearly provided more contributions more than others (Figure 1). 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 (Figure 2). 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.


 
Figure 2: An overview of the list of Top 50 solar venues based on sport disciplines.

Figure 2: An overview of the list of Top 50 solar venues based on sport disciplines.

 

The timeliness of solar applications for sports venues is clearly indicated in Figure 3. 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.


 
Figure 3: Sports venues with installed solar systems per year between 1995 and 2017.

Figure 3: Sports venues with installed solar systems per year between 1995 and 2017.

 

Allianz Riviera - Nice (Photo: Miläne Servelle)

Allianz Riviera - Nice (Photo: Miläne Servelle)

Top 15 - Europe

# Name Size (kWp) Team Sport* Location Country Year # panels
1 TT circuit Assen 5,600 - Car / motor racing Assen The Netherlands 2016 21,000
2 Stade de Suisse 1,350 BSC Young Boys Football Bern Switzerland 2005 8,000
3 Thialf Ice Arena 1,350 - Ice Skating Heerenveen The Netherlands 2016 5,000
4 Allianz Riviera 1,342 OGC Nice Football Nice France 2013 4,000
5 Weser stadium 1,270 Werder Bremen Football Bremen Germany 2011
6 Johan Cruijff Arena 1,128 Ajax Football Amsterdam The Netherlands 2014 4,200
7 Bentegodi-stadion 1,000 Hellas Verona and ChievoVerona Football Verona Italy 2009 13,300
8 Signal Iduna Park 924 Borussia Dortmund Football Dortmund Germany 2011 9,000
9 Galgenwaard 817 FC Utrecht Football Utrecht The Netherlands 2017 3,400
10 Kyocera stadion 725 ADO Den Haag Football The Hague The Netherlands 2014 2,900
11 De Meent IJsbaan 305 - Other / not specified Alkmaar The Netherlands 2015
12 Euroborg 273 FC Groningen Football Groningen The Netherlands 2014 1,100
13 Schwarzwald-Stadion 259 SC Freiburg Football Freiburg Germany 1995
14 AFAS Stadion 245 AZ Football Alkmaar The Netherlands 2015 1,725
15 Bristol Sport's Ashton Gate Stadium 117 Bristol Football Club & Bristol Rugby Football Bristol United Kingdom 2016 460

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”.


Mineirao - Belo Horizonte (Photo: Renato Cobucci/Imprensa-MG)

Mineirao - Belo Horizonte (Photo: Renato Cobucci/Imprensa-MG)

Top 50 Stadiums & Venues South America (F).png

Top 5 - South America

# Name Size (kWp) Team Sport* Location Country Year # panels
1 Estádio Nacional Mané Garrincha 2,500 Brasília and Legião Futebol Clube Football Brasília (DF) Brazil 2013 9,600
2 Mineirao 1,420 Cruzeiro, Atlético Mineiro Football Belo Horizonte (Minas Gerais) Brazil 2014 6,000
3 Itaipava Arena Pernambuco 1,000 Clube Náutico Capibaribe Football São Lourenço da Mata (Pernambuco) Brazil 2014 3,650
4 Fonte Nova Arena 500 Esporte Clube Bahia Football Salvador (Bahia) Brazil 2014
5 Pituaçu 403 Esporte Clube Bahia Football Salvador (Bahia) Brazil 2012
6 Estadio do Maracana 400 Fluminense Football Club Football Rio de Janeiro Brazil 2014 1,556
7 Estadio Alejandro Morera Soto 260 Liga Deportiva Alajuelense Football Alajuela Costa Rica 2015 864

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.

(For a detailed and more technical look at the Estadio Mineirao system, be sure to check out this highly detailed study of the system's performance over a year's time in the Energies Open Access Energy Research, Engineering and Policy Journal)


Lincoln Financial Field - Philadelphia

Lincoln Financial Field - Philadelphia

Top 50 Stadiums & Venues North America (F).png

Top 25 - North America

# Name Size (kWp) Team Sport* Location Country Year # panels
1 Indianapolis Motor Speedway 9,000 - Car / motor racing Speedway (Indiana) USA 2014 39,312
2 Lincoln Financial Field 3,000 Philadelphia Eagles American Football Philadelphia (Pennsylvania) USA 2010 11,000
3 Pocono Raceway 3,000 - Car / motor racing Blakeslee (Pennsylvania) USA 2010 39,960
4 Rio Tinto Stadium 2,020 Real Salt Lake Football Sandy (Utah) USA 2015 6,500
5 FedEx Field 2,000 Washington Redskins American Football Landover (Maryland) USA 2011 8,000
6 Gilette Stadium 1,000 New England Patriots American Football Foxborough (Massachussetts) USA 2012
7 CenturyLink Field 800 Seattle Seahawks American Football Seattle (Washington) USA 2011 3,750
8 TD Bank Ballpark 515 Somerset Patriots Baseball Bridgewater Township (New Jersey) USA 2013 3,456
9 Wells Fargo Arena 497 Arizona State Sun Devils American Football Tempe (Arizona) USA 2011 2,072
10 Levi’s Stadium 375 San Francisco 49ers American Football Santa Clara (California) USA 2014 1,162
11 Safeco Field 368 Seattle Mariners Baseball Seattle (Washington) USA 2012
12 Staples Center 364 LA Kings Basketball Los Angeles (California) USA 2013 1,727
13 Sonoma Raceway 354 - Car / motor racing Sonoma (California) USA 2013 1,652
14 Metlife Stadium 314 New York Jets American Football East Rutherford (New Jersey) USA 2012 1,350
15 The Hangar (Clear Channel Stadium) 300 Lancaster JetHawks Baseball Lancaster (California) USA 2010 1,500
16 Talking Stick Resort Arena 227 Phoenix Suns Basketball Phoenix (Arizona) USA 2012 966
17 NRG Stadium 221 Houston Texans American Football Houston (Texas) USA 2015 600
18 Avaya Stadium 220 San Jose Earthquakes Football San Jose (California) USA 2015 882
19 Oracle Arena 164 Golden State Warriors Basketball Oakland (California) USA 2010 537
20 AT&T Park 120 San Francisco Giants Baseball San Francisco (California) USA 2008 590
21 Chase Field 75 Arizona Diamondbacks Baseball Phoenix (Arizona) USA 2012 336
22 Kauffman Stadium 28 Kansas City Royals Baseball Kansas City, Missouri USA 2012 120
23 Busch Stadium 25 Saint Louis Cardinals Baseball Saint Louis, Missouri USA 2012 106
24 Arrowhead Stadium 25 Kansas City Chiefs American Football Kansas City, Missouri USA 2014 82
25 Pepsi Center 10 Denver Nuggets & Colorado Avalanche Basketball / Hockey Denver, Colorado USA 2009 46

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.

Figure 4: Solar sports venues by sport (USA)

Figure 4: Solar sports venues by sport (USA)

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.


Solar energy is on the rise and it is reaching and benefiting sectors that previously had no affiliation with it. The sector of sports venues is yet another field where solar energy is expected to have a disruptive effect and change best practices. Let it be driven by sustainability initiatives or mere economic rationality, more and more venues are pursuing solar energy. Besides the overt benefits of this increase in solar venues, an increasing number of people are being exposed to PV and other solar technologies. Given the ability of sports to influence large crowds towards desirable values, sustainability efforts and with it solar energy sector may benefit considerably from this positive trend in years to come.


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