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The Clean Energy Super Bowl: The National Football League’s Most Efficient Stadiums

When the Atlanta Falcons and New England Patriots kick off Super Bowl LI on Sunday, they will do so under the LED lights of Houston’s NRG Stadium. Home of the Houston Texans, NRG Stadium is one of many NFL fields to boast sustainable infrastructure. Here are some of the league’s most efficient arenas:

NRG Stadium: It is only fitting to start with the host of this year’s Super Bowl. NRG Stadium recently underwent a huge upgrade. A new lighting system replaced all of the stadium’s lights with 65,000 LED bulbs. Now fully lit with LEDs, the stadium’s lights will consume 60% less power than the last time Houston hosted the Super Bowl in 2004.

U.S. Bank Stadium: The NFL’s newest stadium is also one of its greenest. Host to the Minnesota Vikings, U.S. Bank Stadium opened this season and unveiled a host of efficient design elements. The facility’s most innovative design feature is the building material itself. The stadium is constructed with ETFE, what the Vikings call “a clear, plastic-like, Space Age material” that is translucent. By permitting thermal heating and letting in natural light, ETFE reduces the costs to warm and light the stadium. Like NRG Stadium, U.S. Bank Stadium is lit exclusively by LED lights that reduce electricity costs by 37 percent. Installation of the LEDs was supported by a $733,360 investment from Xcel Energy, the local utility, which estimates that the payback on this investment will take less than two years.

Levi’s Stadium: It is no surprise that many of the NFL’s most efficient stadiums are also its newest. Levi’s Stadium, opened by the San Francisco 49ers in 2014, is the first professional football stadium to receive LEED Gold certification for its efficient use of resources. Not only does Levi’s Stadium minimize waste with LED lights and solar panels, but the stadium was also built to lessen water consumption, waste production, and commuting distance.

Lincoln Financial Field: Before these new stadiums were built, Lincoln Financial Field was consistently among the league’s most efficient homes. Home field for the Philadelphia Eagles, the Linc has gradually become more energy efficiency since construction finished in 2003. With the installation of 2,500 solar panels and 80 wind turbines in 2010, Lincoln Financial Field became the first stadium capable of generating enough electricity to meet its daily power needs. The league’s most impressive solar array, especially combined with a 33 percent reduction in electricity consumption since 2003, makes Lincoln Financial Field one of the NFL’s clean energy leaders.

A number of other stadiums also deserve an honorable mention for their clean energy initiatives. Met Life Stadium, home to the New York Giants and New York Jets, is twice as large as its predecessor (Giants Stadium) but uses 30% less energy. Soldier Field, host of the Chicago Bears, is the NFL’s oldest stadium but by using LED lights and other efficient technologies earned LEED Silver certification. The Green Bay Packers renovated another of the league’s oldest stadiums, applying a $66,000 incentive from Focus on Energy for improvements to Lambeau Field that will deliver 800,000 kWh and 65,000 Therms of annual energy savings. The Seattle Seahawks’ CenturyLink Field reduced annual utility costs by 21% with 1,350 solar panels. The home field of both Super Bowl contenders, the Atlanta Falcons and the New England Patriots, also have taken significant steps to improve efficiency. Staff at the Falcons’ Georgia Dome participate in regular sustainability sessions to learn how to improve efficiency at work and at home. In addition to solar panels, New England’s Gillette Stadium uses white painted roofs to reduce air conditioning needs in the summer.

Solar panels are one of the most common ways that NFL stadiums have adopted clean energy technologies. Teams have also begun installing electric vehicle charging stations in their parking lots, a bonus for fans in cities like Kansas City, Pittsburgh, and Washington. Less newsworthy, but no less important, are steps like buying renewable energy from local utilities or installing lighting controls that lower run times for stadium lights.

NFL owners run their teams like businesses. Energy efficiency measures are not only great ways to offset the heavy carbon footprint of immense structures like football stadiums, but they are also a rewarding financial investment. Just like the NFL’s businesses can benefit from huge energy efficiency projects in their buildings, so too can small businesses benefit from similar projects at a much more manageable scale. If you are interested in upgrades similar to those you see on football Sundays, contact Lime Energy for a free energy efficiency estimate.

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