The cause of the 34-minute power outage at Super Bowl XLVII remains uncertain, but one thing’s for sure: football stadiums use an extraordinary amount of power.
Despite its recent addition of energy-efficient LED lighting, the Superdome still uses approximately 5 megawatts of power during games. Since an average football game lasts about 3 hours, each game requires about 15 megawatt-hours of electricity. That’s about 475x the electricity that the average American home uses per day.
What steps could be taken to tackle the power requirements of football games, and possibly prevent future mid-game blackouts? One possibility could be adding renewable power to stadiums. Combined with battery backup systems, stadiums could easily switch to backup power in the event of an outage. In fact, many stadiums are already making efforts to become more sustainable through a variety of methods, solar power among them.
MetLife Stadium recently installed a solar panel ring consisting of 1350 total panels that form a canopy over the stadium’s uppermost seats. The solar panels are paired with a ring of LED lights that can change color from green for the Jets and blue for the Giants. The panels are what's called Building Integrated Photovoltaics (BIPV), and can produce 350 kW of electricity, about 25 times the power necessary to run the LEDs. This installation was done by NRG Energy, and the company is also working with several other NFL stadiums to add solar power systems.
FedEx Field, home of the Washington Redskins, installed a solar energy system of its own in 2011. The system can produce almost 2 MW (2000 kW) of power, and consists of 8,000 solar panels. The panels were installed in the parking lot and serve a double purpose as shade for cars.
Clearly, there are many ways that stadiums can add renewable power. From installing solar panels directly on top or on the sides of stadiums, to adding solar power above parking lots, stadiums can take advantage of their real estate and cut down on electric costs by going solar. And if we can reduce carbon emissions while enjoying football, all the better.