NHL Takes LEED In Promoting Renewable Energy

Consol Energy Center – NHL’s First LEED Gold Arena (Flickr/rwoan)

Cold weather and ice have always been a part of hockey’s tradition, but these days the NHL wants teams to start taking advantage of the sun.

On Wednesday the league came together with MLB, MLS, NBA, and the NFL to deliver a letter to their teams, arenas, and stadiums stressing the benefits of solar power generation and outlining the work necessary to complete this transition.  The letter was prepared on their behalf by the National Resources Defense Council and the Bonneville Environmental Foundation and shows that sports leagues are serious about fighting climate change.

”We are acutely aware that our League, as well as all sports leagues, need to be responsible stewards of our planet,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said on the teleconference. “Utilizing solar energy is an important and efficient environmental action that sends a broader signal to the culture.”

In recent years, the NHL and it’s teams have been at the forefront of renewable energy promotion.  Phillips Arena, home of the Atlanta Thrashers, became the first NHL arena to achieve LEED certification in 2009 and has become an example for stadiums and facilities across North America.  LEED stands for “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design” and represents that a facility has met green building standards and performance measures.

THW’s Stephanie Lewark reported last week that the CONSOL Energy Center set to open this fall in Pittsburgh has furthered the league’s commitment to the environment by becoming the NHL’s first LEED Gold certified arena:

I wanted to look into what exactly qualified the CONSOL to become LEED Gold Certified, so I spoke to an arena employee who explained that the new arena was constructed with a lot of recycled products such as gypsum board and metal. The bathrooms house low-flow (water-saving) toilets, but the major difference is in it’s efficiency. The CONSOL runs much more efficiently than the Igloo did which enables them to run it for a lot less money.  I’ve also learned since my visit that there are 28 spaces set aside in the new parking garage attached to the arena for low-emission, fuel-efficient cars that will be directed to the specified spaces by parking attendants.

The benefits of stadium solar use are significant as energy costs rise and global warming concerns escalate.  Most would expect that solar power benefits can only be enjoyed by warm-weather franchises such as Miami and Phoenix, but cities like Boston have already shown the potential in all regions of the country.  At Fenway Park, built in 1912 and home of the 2010 Winter Classic, 28 solar panels have been installed that generate 37% of the electricity used to heat water throughout the park.

Tax credits and grants are available in many cases, but the installation of solar panels is obviously not cheap.  (A 25,000 sq. ft. solar panel system on the roof of the STAPLES Center in Los Angeles cost $3.3m)  The NRDC/BEF letter outlines funding ideas for franchises to consider, such as:

You might also consider selling some piece of the renewable energy claims generated by the system to fans by having a “solar ticket” option. For instance, fans might be given the option of buying a special ticket whereby they would pay slightly more to support the solar electric system and to offset some of their own energy use or carbon impact.

It’s always irritating when the Ticketmaster processing fee of $5 to $15 gets tacked onto the cost of a single game ticket, but fans (and especially corporations) might be open to the thought of helping their team protect the environment.  Social benefits like this can’t be ignored as professional sports teams are some of the most influential entities in today’s society.  Setting an example and pushing these initiatives could have an enormous impact on Canada, the US, and the world.

In most cities, the panels will even pay for themselves in energy production.  Take Colorado for example.  The letter projects that a huge 500 kW system would cost $2.075m with incentives, produce 758,283 kWh per year, and avoid over 1 million pounds of CO2 emissions annually.  In approximately 15 years, the system would pay for itself.  Even Ilya Kovalchuk can’t say that.

[To read more and download the stadium guide, visit the NRDC website at http://www.nrdc.org/greenbusiness/guides/sports/solarguide.asp]