Tag Archives: energy efficiency

How To Realize Actual Savings From Green Renovation Projects

Here’s how to realize actual savings from green renovation projects.

You’ve spent tens of thousands of dollars on a renovation with the goal of raising a building’s Energy Star score from 60 to 75 because your CFO wants an Energy Starcertification. Will it work? How will you know? Was the initial goal a real-world possibility based on experience, or just wishful thinking?

The idea of bridging the gap between a goal (or design intent) and actual efficient operation (i.e., achieving that goal) is just as critical to keep in mind for green renovation projects as it is for new construction. Setting realistic goals, commissioning all work (and recommissioning it down the road), and measuring and verifying that the work is meeting the goals on a long-term basis are three steps facility managers should take to ensure success with green renovation projects.

Defining the scope of the renovation — whether a relatively simple lighting retrofit or a full gut rehab — is the first step to setting realistic goals once the renovation is complete. According to Peter Strazdas, associate vice president, facilities management, Western Michigan University, this is often the most difficult part. Setting the scope, and thus the goals, is akin to setting the project program on new construction. But with renovations, it’s often more difficult to keep the intended focus.

“The program tends to get diluted, so we concentrate a lot on staying the course with renovations,” he says. “We carefully document the program for the renovation at the beginning, and more importantly, we document why we are employing certain strategies.” Strazdas says the reason for careful documentation is to show both his customers — the faculty and students who use the buildings — as well as his facility managers and technicians precisely why decisions were made at the front end. This limits changes and keeps the scope manageable. It also helps with ongoing efficient operations as the technicians know and understand why decisions were made.

“They may understand the technical stuff, but they don’t understand why, for instance, we chose LEDs or occupancy sensors. It’s terribly important to start this explanation at the beginning with the project program.”

Strazdas says Western Michigan currently has more than 300 renovation projects in the works, so it’s easy to see why it’s important to keep each project on target — in terms of both facility management goals and what the customer wants. At the end of the day, those are the two most critical factors that define whether a project is successful or not.

But how do you set realistic goals, then ensure that they‘re followed through to success? With new construction, an energy model is the go-to strategy for setting efficiency goals — and that strategy could work for renovations, as well. If the project is big enough, says Strazdas, the few extra bucks up front to model is worth it. “The model helps identify strategies that we could not have come up with on our own,” he says. “You can’t just work on the back of a napkin anymore.”

But a full-scale energy model for most renovation projects isn’t realistic. Jim Cooke, national facilities operations manager for Toyota Motor Sales North America, says his organization sets goals for renovations by comparing expected results with new construction. He says the first question is: “How close can we come with a renovation project to how efficient we are with new construction? Our goals for renovations definitely revolve around being able to apply lessons learned from new construction.”

Source: facilitiesnet

First Fuel software aims to make energy efficiency easier, quicker

Skyscrapers in Dubai

First Fuel aims to make it easier to boost energy efficiency in commercial buildings. Photograph: Ali Haider/EPA

Swapnil Shah doesn’t have anything against cleaner-burning fuels or renewable energy. He just thinks North American businesses – and the buildings they operate in – should be using less energy, no matter the source.

“The ability to reduce consumption in those buildings can have a huge impact”, both economically and environmentally, said Shah, the CEO of First Fuel. The young software company in Lexington, Massachusetts, was founded with exactly that goal in mind.

First Fuel is built – and named – based on the notion that those interested in making energy more environmentally friendly should look first to efficiency before seeking newer, greener fuel sources. To help make energy efficiency easier, the company has created a software system that completes a remote version of a more conventional “energy audit”, a process in which trained assessors conduct an on-site evaluation of a building to identify energy-saving opportunities.

The First Fuel system uses thousands of data points about a building’s energy usage, its physical dimensions and the weather in its location to calculate where and how the structure can cut its energy use. Clients provide their energy use data and their addresses; the rest of the information comes from public records and commercially available archives.

The advantage of a remote assessment, according to Shah, is that assessors don’t need to visit each site, a time-intensive and – as he puts it – “kind of a subjective” process.

First Fuel’s process produces a final report that identifies specific areas – heating and cooling, lighting, building operations – in which there are opportunities to improve efficiency. The analysis is completed without any on-site inspections.

Shah likens the process to the way doctors can use blood tests and MRI results to diagnose patients without ever meeting them. And it seems to work: third-party studies, including one by Pacific Gas & Electric, have concluded that the accuracy of First Fuel assessments is comparable to that of traditional audits and that the software is often able to suggest energy-saving measures missed by human inspectors.

Swapnil ShahSwapnil Shah, CEO of First Fuel. Photograph: First FuelThe high performance is the result of years of tinkering and refining, Shah says. The 45-year old native of India and his three co-founders started the company in 2010, but only brought the product to market some 18 months ago after spending a year and a half making sure the software could live up to its promise.

First Fuel’s business strategy is based on a growing movement toward energy conservation in both the commercial and government sectors. Shah co-founded three previous business-to-business software companies that were acquired or went public: mValent,WebSpective and Open Environment. He wanted his newest endeavor to combine a profitable business with an effort to improve the world, he said.

“After having spent 20 years in enterprise software, I was really looking for a different challenge, something that had a broader impact,” Shah said.

About 30 US states and Canadian provinces already have regulations aimed at reducing energy consumption in buildings, Shah noted. Meanwhile, the commercial sector is responsible for approximately 20% of total energy consumption in the United States, according to the USEnergy Information Administration. First Fuel hopes to reduce that consumption: its customer base consists of utilities, government agencies, and commercial enterprises aiming to cut costs, meet legal requirements or improve their sustainability.

Still, First Fuel faces some challenges. As interest in the field of energy efficiency explodes, perhaps the biggest obstacle is the sheer number of competitors crowding the market. In a recent report, energy services company Groom Energy identified more than 200 vendors – from big players like IBM and Honeywell to innovative start-ups – selling some form of “energy management solution”.

Additionally, there is some debate about whether the push for energy efficiency will live up to its potential. Some studies have found evidence that improving efficiency can cause what is often called a “rebound effect”: Knowing their systems are more efficient, customers may feel that they can afford to leave a light on or drive more often.

First Fuel aims to avoid this problem by finding energy-saving opportunities that don’t change building occupants’ level of comfort. If they don’t notice any changes, the logic goes, they’re unlikely to crank the heat up.

“Many of the opportunities we find are about keeping the buildings at comfort level, while still keeping the efficiency,” said Indran Ratnathicam, director of marketing and strategy for First Fuel.

Among the company’s customers is Washington DC, which is trying to reduce its energy consumption by 20% from the summer of 2013 to the end of 2014. First Fuel has already helped the district make progress toward that goal, said Sam Brooks, director of energy and sustainability for the department that manages the district’s 30m square feet of building space.

In one case, the program was used to analyze a 500,000-square-foot building. The results suggested that the building’s lighting wasn’t as efficient as it could be and that the HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) systems were running longer than was necessary each day.

“An hour and a half right there can be worth $40,000 to $50,000 to your bill,” Brooks noted. “When you target those little pockets of operational waste, you’re really able to very rapidly get rid of that waste.”

The software-driven approach is also more scalable than traditional audits, Brooks said. With roughly 400 buildings in the district’s portfolio, on-site inspections would be cumbersome and time-consuming. First Fuel, however, enabled Brooks’ department evaluate all its buildings and identify waste much more rapidly, he said.

“There’s not much downside to efficiency,” Shah said.

Source: The Guardian 

Next Generation of EcoSmart LED Light Bulbs Offer Advanced Technology

Completely Updated Line of LED Light Bulbs Achieving Higher Efficiencies with Greener Technology and Competitive Pricing

SATELLITE BEACH, Fla.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--April 01, 2014--

Starting today, homeowners can lower energy cost without sacrificing lighting quality by installing a new generation of EcoSmart LED (Light Emitting Diode) light bulbs. Lighting Science, a leader in LED-based lighting, produced the bulbs to be the most affordably-priced, yet efficient light bulbs on the market. The new EcoSmart LED lamp line features a complete line of 34 lamp types, including the most popular A lamps, BR lamps, MR lamps, PAR lamps and decorative lamps.

The new line of EcoSmart LED bulbs are much more efficient than an equivalent CFL (Compact Fluorescent Lamp) and last 20 years or longer. The most popular are fully dimmable and eighteen of the new products have been Energy Star(R) certified. Unlike CFLs, the EcoSmart LED bulbs contain no mercury or lead, are completely recyclable and offer outstanding light quality. In most applications, consumers will see a significant reduction in their utility costs and the bulb will pay for itself in less than two years from energy and replacement savings alone.

The upgraded product line features several exciting new LED lamp types, including:

   -- Glimpse Indirect Downlight Replacement -- featuring a no-glare, hidden 
      LED lighting array for smooth, comfortable lighting in main living areas 
 
   -- Gimbal Rotating Downlight Lamp -- turns your recessed can into a 
      changeable spotlight without having to buy or change the fixture housing 
 
   -- General Purpose replacement bulbs -- exceptional quality and value for 
      LED 40-watt or 60-watt equivalent light bulbs starting at only $6.97 per 
      bulb

“Lighting Science is proud to introduce this technologically-advanced line for The Home Depot’s EcoSmart lighting products, firmly assuring that EcoSmart LED light bulbs are the most advanced on the market,” said Rick Davis, CEO, Lighting Science. “Consumers now have a performance-based, environmental and financial reason to choose LED lighting over fluorescent at the world’s largest home improvement retailer.”

Lights can be purchased at The Home Depot nationwide or on their website (www.homedepot.com).

About Lighting Science

Lighting Science (OTCQB: LSCG) is a global leader in lighting solutions that are environmentally-friendlier and more energy-efficient than traditional lighting products. Lighting Science is committed to UNLEASH THE SCIENCE OF LIGHT TO MAKE PEOPLE AND OUR PLANET LOOK, FEEL AND HEAL BETTER with award-winning, innovative LED lamps and lighting fixtures. Find out more at http://www.lsgc.com and join us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and the Lighting Science Blog.

 
    CONTACT: Lighting Science(R)

Samantha Wood McLarty, 321-610-9608

Samantha.McLarty@lsgc.com

 
    SOURCE: Lighting Science 
Copyright Business Wire 2014 

How Bundling Energy Efficiency Projects Helps Justify Large Capital Upgrades

A key step in justifying many large capital upgrades is to bundle them with other work that has a quick payback. There are a wide range of quick win strategies to bundle in with more complex endeavors. Low-cost or no-cost projects can be implemented by facility managers in conjunction with standard operations and maintenance procedures. For example, the facility manager can ensure that the outside air dampers for the air handling units are operational during peak cooling and heating conditions. If the dampers are not functioning properly and remain fully open during the winter months, the result would be an increase in energy use. The HVAC system would be trying to maintain the heating set point based on a lower mixed air temperature, due to the increased amount of colder outdoor air added to the warmer return air. If the dampers are functioning properly, the temperature rise would be much less and require significantly less energy.

Revisiting the applicable ventilation air requirements is another easy way to save energy. If a space previously used as a lab or a classroom is now an office, the amount of required outdoor air changes, i.e., the damper set points, could be altered. Also, changes made in space use often do not include HVAC system rebalancing. A space is often repurposed without any modifications to the HVAC system.

In a bundling strategy, the next step up from no- or very low-cost energy efficiency measures involves relatively small projects that may require an engineering design or additional evaluation. One example is the installation of variable frequency drives on motors. For example, a 20 horsepower pump operating 24 hours per day for a quarter of the year (91 days) with $0.08/kWh electrical cost will incur an electrical charge of $2,890 per year, assuming a motor efficiency of 90 percent.

The installation of a variable frequency drive will allow the pump to operate at decreased flow and pressure throughout the year. The flow will decrease at the same rate the motor speed decreases. The energy costs decrease as the cube of the flow (motor speed) decreases. If the installation of the variable frequency drive reduces the flow by 25 percent, then the resultant reduction in energy use is 58 percent. However, the reality is that approximately 50 percent energy savings will be obtained. The savings for this project is approximately $1,450 per year. Based upon RS Means, the average installed cost for a 20 horsepower pump is approximately $4,000 to $5,000 depending on location. The simple payback for this energy conservation measure is approximately 2.7 to 3.5 years.

All analyses of energy conservation project paybacks should of course be based on actual power rates paid by the facility. The impact on demand charges should also be considered.

Let’s Connect. Collaborate. And Partner Together! Let’s maximize your energy efficiency investments together: info@setpointsystems.com

Steps Beyond Simple Payback To Justify Large Energy Efficiency Investments

When top management relies solely on simple payback based on energy savings, it can be difficult to justify energy efficiency projects involving very large capital investments. Those projects may be uncovered by energy audits, which — with current state legislation and energy incentives — are becoming an increasingly popular means for identifying and implementing campus and building renewal projects. Energy audits help facility managers identify ways to reduce energy consumption by changing the operating schedule of HVAC or lighting devices. Audits can also help justify replacing inefficient, aging, or failing equipment within a building.

Simple payback calculation is sometimes used to determine if the change in schedule or replacement is required. The simple payback is typically calculated by dividing the annual energy savings for each project by the capital cost to replace or modify the piece of equipment. If there are any incentives or rebates, they are subtracted from the capital costs.

When top management relies solely on simple payback based on energy savings, it can be difficult to justify projects involving very large capital investments. The simple-payback approach does not present the whole picture of the value of the upgrade.

There are several ways to try to overcome the limitations of that approach. One is to bundle projects, so that work with very quick payback periods helps to balance upgrades with much longer paybacks. Another step to help show management the entire project value is to include other factors in the analysis, like maintenance savings and deferred capital (the cost to replace a unit in kind if the unit is beyond its useful life). These factors need to be calculated very carefully to ensure that they are realistic.

The importance of this broader approach can be seen from a project conducted under the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ energy reduction program. The program aims to reduce energy consumption by 25 percent for all state-owned-and-operated facilities. The state used the simple payback method based only on energy savings (energy, rebates, and incentives) savings. The projects are expected to have a simple payback of 15 to 20 years or less to justify the investment.

A large state university evaluated under the program had identified a project with an energy savings of 21 percent and a simple payback of 19 years based upon energy consumption only. The university had to sell this project to its board and would have found it difficult with a simple payback of 19 years, but the university was also able to include the savings for deferred maintenance and deferred capital. The inclusion reduced the simple payback from 19 years to less than 9 years. (At the time of this writing, the contribution from utility company incentives and rebates for this campus was not included because a substantial amount of the design was not yet completed).

It’s important to note that there were more than 150 energy conservation measures identified in this project, with simple paybacks ranging from 6 months to more than 50 years. When all of these were considered under one umbrella, the overall project had a simple payback that was in the range of the total system requirement. Bundling helped to move forward projects with long payback periods; this is carefully programmed so that the overall project is still able to maintain an acceptable payback period.

Let’s Connect. Collaborate. And Partner Together! Let’s maximize your energy efficiency investments together: info@setpointsystems.com

Retrocommissioning Improves Energy Efficiency In High-Performing Buildings

LEED certification and Energy Star benchmarking continue to grow in popularity for existing buildings as pressures mount to control operating expenses. As a result, energy efficiency is now mainstream, and managing a building’s energy performance is standard procedure among an ever-growing number of facility managers.

Energy Manager Patrick Johanning is one of them. Johanning works for an international commercial real-estate services corporation, where he manages energy cost and consumption for a Fortune 500 financial services company. Acting on a hunch that he could improve energy efficiency and reduce operating costs among his top-performing facilities, Johanning looked into retro-commissioning (RCx). The result was an RCx project in Springfield, Ill. — performed on a building that was LEED Gold certified with an 89 Energy Star score — which managed to produce a 10.4 percent energy savings on its HVAC system.

Multiple options existed for reducing the energy-related expenses, including energy audits and re-lamp projects. But while the benefits of these activities are well documented, the state of efficiency that existed between the facility’s mechanical and operating systems, and the control systems that function on the front-end, was not documented. While the RCx process is intended to restore a building’s equipment and mechanical systems back to their original operational design, functional performance testing can also improve energy efficiency. In short, if Johanning could show favorable RCx results in a high-performing building, he could find support for an RCx program across the entire commercial office portfolio. The first challenge was to both prove his hypothesis and get the project funded.

The funding arrived in the form of an RCx study rebate provided by City Water Light and Power (CWLP), the power utility company serving the building’s area. Johanning then hired Kohrs Lonnemann Heil Engineers (KLH), an engineering firm with experience in energy solutions and the RCx process, to help restore the building’s systems back to their optimal operational state while focusing on potential energy saving opportunities. The following details how KLH worked with Johanning to reach RCx success.
Beyond the low-hanging fruit

A review of the current facility requirements confirmed that there had been no material changes in the building zoning or use of the facility from its original design and construction.  Based on this information, the scope of the project was designed to focus on domestic hot water, snow melt, lighting, and HVAC. There were no blatant, major equipment or operational issues; preventative maintenance practices were in place; and the building was in exceptional physical condition. However facility staff interviews uncovered some issues related to fluctuations in the building pressure.

Functional performance testing of the HVAC system and testing of the BAS revealed discrepancies in the airflow throughout several of the VAV boxes. In addition, data from the BAS showed a steady increase throughout the day in the building pressure, and that the exhaust fans were not properly maintaining appropriate pressure levels. But despite these pressure levels, carbon dioxide levels only reached 75 percent of the maximum acceptable levels for indoor air quality—well within the ASHRAE minimum standards. The absence of obvious energy conservation measures—the low-hanging fruit—meant that the success of the RCx project would be an even greater challenge.

Super Bowl’s Green Stadiums: MetLife and Others Tackle Energy Efficiency

 

  • MetLife Stadium.MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, New Jersey

    Photograph courtesy Jim Sulley, NRG

    MetLife Stadium will light up in bright orange, blue, and green lights when the Denver Broncos play the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday.

    The striking display that rings the top of the stadium is powered by LED light bulbs, which are already energy-efficient—but they are made even more so by the power source that runs along the same track. The 1,350 solar panels installed on the ring can generate enough electricity to power the colorful lights and other operations.

    MetLife Stadium—home to the New York Jets and the New York Giants—won the bid to host Super Bowl XLVIII one month after it opened in 2010, and the stadium staff have been preparing ever since.

    Energy savings are part of the plan: In addition to the solar ring, the stadium has initiated composting, water conservation, and building controls that have helped reduce electricity use by nearly 20 percent over the past three years.

    MetLife Stadium is the only one in the U.S. to have lined its circumference with solar, as noted in a 2013 EPA report on the facility’s efforts, but it is certainly not alone in boosting sustainability efforts. Several sports facilities in recent years have installed solar panels, efficient lighting, and other measures designed to reduce the impact of their large-scale operations. (See related story: “Super Bowl Caps Banner Season in NFL Green Drive.”)

    Another part of MetLife’s Super Bowl plan: Avoiding a repeat of last year’s power outage. The stadium has installed an extra power line and generators to be sure that the game goes on uninterrupted. (See related story: “Keeping the Super Bowl Lights On: An Extra Line, Generators in Place.”)

    —Angie McPherson, Amy Sinatra Ayres, and Jeff BarkerPublished February 1, 2014

  • The Louisiana Superdome is seen at night in a multiple-exposure photograph.Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans

    Multiple-exposure photograph by Gerard Lodriguss, Getty Images

    Last year’s showdown between the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers was more memorable for its plunge into darkness than for any play on the field. An electrical malfunction caused the lights at New Orleans’ Mercedes-Benz Superdome to go out for 34 minutes, interrupting the game’s second half.

    The NFL later confirmed that a faulty relay device—intended, ironically, to prevent a power failure—was to blame for the outage. The stadium’s electricity supplier, Entergy, said the device had been taken permanently out of service. (See related stories: “What Caused the Super Bowl Blackout at the Superdome?” and “Super Bowl Blackout: Was It Caused by Relay Device, or Human Error?“)

    The outage was another blow to a city—and stadium—that had spent more than seven years battling back from natural and ecological disaster. New Orleans aimed to set a new mark for environmental sustainability with its ninth turn at hosting the NFL’s marquee event, reflecting a broader green movement that is changing the look of stadiums and attitudes throughout the sports world.

    Despite the electricity mishap, the Superdome remains outfitted with protective and energy-saving features installed during a $336 million restoration of the “refuge of last resort” for 30,000 people during Hurricane Katrina. The stadium’s outer wall has a specially designed double barrier system with improved insulation and rainwater control. The Mercedes-Benz Superdome, as it is now known, is ringed with 26,000 LED lights, covering two million square feet and supported by five miles of copper wiring, but which draw only ten kilowatts of electricity—as much as a small home.

    The stadium stands as an example for “not just rebuilding what was there before, but making it more environmentally sound,” said Patty Riddlebarger, director of corporate social responsibility for Entergy.

    Entergy donated carbon credits—investments in projects that capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere—to offset the estimated 3.8 million pounds of emissions expected to be generated due to energy use at the Super Bowl venues. New Orleans’ Second Harvest Food Bank recovered approximately 36,000 pounds of unused foodfrom all Super Bowl events to donate to those in need. And two nonprofits, the Green Project REPurposingNolaand, reclaimed Super Bowl banners, displays, and other promotional items to be recycled into souvenir items such as tote bags, wallets, and shower curtains. Signage will again be donated for repurposing at this year’s event.

    The Host Committee organized a Super Bowl Saturday day of service focused on continuing restoration. New Orleans is one of the most deforested cities in the United States, having lost 100,000 trees to Katrina’s wind and standing saltwater. The urban forestry initiative Hike for KaTreena planted its 20,000th tree that Super Bowl weekend, and planted 7,000 of them just for the game (a Super Bowl tree-planting record). And because that Saturday was World Wetlands Day, local students joined a coastal restoration project in Bayou Sauvage Wildlife Refuge coordinated with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, whose then-administrator, Lisa Jackson, is a New Orleans native.

    Published February 1, 2014

  • Small wind turbines at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pa.Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia

    Photograph by Brian Garfinkel, AP

    No matter the fortunes of the Eagles on the field, Philadelphia has led the NFL for a decade in green initiatives, capped by the 14 distinctive micro wind turbines that now crown Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.

    The turbines, seven above each end zone, were installed in November by New York City-based Urban Green Energy. (Related: “Helix Collapse Fails to Crush Hopes for Vertical Wind Turbines“) It’s part of what Natural Resources Defense Council called “the most extensive onsite renewable system of any U.S. sports stadium,” including 2,500 solar panels and a generator that can run on natural gas or biodiesel.

    Lincoln Financial Field is the first professional stadium in the United States capable of generating all its electricity on site. But the Eagles also purchase 14 million kilowatt-hours of renewable energy credits annually, meaning that 100 percent of the team’s operations are powered by clean energy. The Eagles also have adopted aggressive energy-conservation and waste-reduction measures. The team switched to recycled paper products nearly a decade ago, and about 75 percent of stadium waste is now recycled.

    The NRDC report notes that there are quarterly meetings among NFL teams to exchange ideas on greening their stadiums and operations.

    Last year’s Super Bowl teams also were in on the greening game. The Baltimore Ravens’ M&T Bank Stadiumrecently become the first existing NFL stadium to receive certification in the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED program for energy-efficient and environmentally sensitive operations and management, earning a Gold rating. The San Francisco 49ers are also seeking LEED certification for their new stadium now being built in Santa Clara, California. The stadium will feature solar-array-covered bridges, a solar canopy above the green roof on the suite tower portion of the stadium, and solar panels over the 49ers training center. The effort is being led by NRG Energy, which has spearheaded other sports stadium renewable-energy efforts.Published February 1, 2014

  • Solar panels in the stadium's canopy at Gillette Stadium.Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Massachusetts

    Photograph courtesy Michelle McLoughlin, NRG

    The home of the New England Patriots, which has been topped with a solar array since 2009, ramped up energy from the sun in 2013 with a solar canopy and a set of rooftop panels at adjacent Patriot Place, an outdoor shopping and dining center. The combination of 3,000 solar panels generates 60 percent of Patriot Place’s electricity use. In 2013, the facility added its first electric-vehicle charging station.

    NRG spearheaded the project as part of its “icon strategy,” where the company looked for well-known structures in the United States that were “more horizontal construction-and it didn’t take us long to get to the NFL stadiums,” said Crane in a 2012 interview. “They’re big, they’re cool, they’re usually surrounded by big parking lots,” which lend themselves to solar installations.

    Crane declined to reveal specific price tags for the projects, but said they tend to run in the “several million” dollar range. (See related post: “NFL Season Opener Under the Solar Powered Lights.”)

    And how long does it take for a stadium to recover those costs with energy savings?

    “In terms of the return on the investment, we’re used to getting a return over a fairly long term in our industry,” Crane said. “Any investment we do, we calculate over a 20-year term.”

    But he said solar isn’t as expensive as it once was. “The price of solar panels has dropped precipitously,” Crane said. Most of the costs at the stadiums are associated with their highly stylized looks and the installation work that involves. “You can’t do computer-driven LED lighting and achieve the same price point as you can for lining up solar panels in a desert.” (Which is what many of the company’s lower-profile installations involve.)

    “On one level, we know that people who are going to football games are going to football games to look at Tom Brady, they’re not going to look at our panels on the roof,” Crane laughed. Still, the hope is that “fans will look at them and say, ‘my team is doing the right thing.’ It’s really about raising awareness with the fan base.”

    Published February 1, 2014

  • Solar panels in the parking lot at FedEx Field, Landover, Maryland.FedEx Field, Landover, Maryland

    Photograph by Max Taylor

    The Washington Redskins unveiled an installation of 8,000 solar panels at FedEx Field at the start of the 2011 season.

    Team sponsor NRG Energy designed the panels to have an impact that select fans experience the moment they arrive at the lot at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland. The panels are installed above 841 premium parking spaces across the street from the stadium.

    The project’s most prominent feature is the parking structure, which looks like a series of carports and contains more than 7,600 of the panels (manufactured by SunPower). A combination of translucent and conventional solar panels collect energy above a stadium ramp. A third variety of solar panel, a thin-film product made byKonarka Technologies, is contained in a 30-foot (9-meter) sculpture of a silhouetted football player throwing a pass.

    There are two electric-vehicle charging stations in the lot where the solar panels are located, and eight more charging stations in an adjacent lot. NRG said the solar installation, the largest in the NFL (at one of the league’s largest stadiums), will produce up to two megawatts of electrical capacity—enough to provide up to 20 percent of the stadium’s power on game days and to meet the building’s needs on nongame days. (You can see a time-lapse video of the installation here.) “One of the really innovative things that NRG has done is show how solar power can be integrated into an existing structure,” said NRG spokesman Stephen Morisseau.

    Published February 1, 2014

  • Solar installation on CenturyLink Field, Seattle CenturyLink Field, Seattle

    Photograph courtesy Rod Mar, Seattle Seahawks

    Forget that Seattle is known for rain and clouds. “I think the cloudiness factor is more mythological than real,” Seahawks team president Peter McLoughlin said in an interview in 2011, when the team unveiled the 3,750-panel array that now adorns the roof of CenturyLink Field.

    The project at CenturyLink Field (seen here)—home to Major League Soccer’s Seattle Sounders as well as the Seahawks—was seen as a breakthrough when it was being constructed because it doesn’t need direct sunlight. The technology, thin-film photovoltaic material around a unique 360-degree cylindrical surface was the signature achievement of Solyndra, the bankrupt California energy company. (Related: “Solar Energy ‘Darwinism’ Weeding Out Weaker Companies“)

    Despite Solyndra’s failure amid bruising competition in the solar industry, solar is still shining at CenturyLink Field, generating more than 800,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity annually, which meets 30 percent of the facility’s energy needs.

    This story is part of a special series that explores energy issues. For more, visit The Great Energy Challenge.