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Top Energy Saving Stadiums in Major League Baseball

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Today is the season opener for Major League Baseball. Thirty stadiums across the country are ready to open their gates to host a collective 73 million fans this year. With each ballpark covering an average than 1 million plus square feet, energy consumption is no small matter.

This year, the San Diego Padres' Opening Day at Petco Field is special for a unique reason: they're debuting the MLB's largest solar power system. The 336,520-watt solar installation makes Petco Field the eighth MLB stadium to incorporate renewable solar energy. Over the course of its projected 25-year lifespan, the system will produce 12 million kilowatts of electricity, saving millions of dollars. Prior to the solar project in 2015, the Padres had also reduced lighting costs by about 40 percent by completely converting the stadium to LED bulbs. 

San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer applauded the renewable power project saying it will help the city meet two ambitious goals by 2035: to reduce greenhouse gases by half and to make the city's energy supply 100 percent renewable. Erik Greupner, the Padres' COO, says, "With Petco Park serving as the premier sports and entertainment venue in San Diego, we take pride in continuing to make it the most energy efficient and sustainable facility possible."

The Petco Field solar project maintains the momentum in an ongoing effort to make all MLB stadiums more sustainable and energy-efficient.

Energy Saving Initiatives More Prevalent

A 2017 report, "Taking the Field," detailed energy-saving strategies at sports venues nationwide. According to the report, 30 percent of professional sports teams have instituted renewable energy initiatives, while more than half have energy-saving programs in place.

The Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy at the U.S. Department of Energy says some of the leaders in energy-efficiency include Busch Stadium, Nationals Park and Safeco Field.

Busch Stadium

Energy usage was significantly reduced at Busch Stadium, home of the St. Louis Cardinals, when team executives launched the "4 a Greener Game" initiative a decade ago. In addition to reducing energy usage by 20 percent, the initiative reduced water usage by 10 percent and solid waste by 30 percent.

The Cardinals organization has also committed to using renewable solar energy. A 32,000 kilowatt solar installation uses 106 solar panels manufactured in the U.S. to power retail, food and beverage shops. 

In late April, the Cardinals will host Green Week for the eighth year in a row. The activities, held in conjunction with Earth Day, promote recycling and the use of solar power. 

Nationals Park

As major league stadiums embrace sustainability, LEED certifications are increasingly important. For example, Nationals Park in Washington D.C. became the first MLB facility to achieve LEED Silver certification. Designers cut lighting energy consumption by more than 20 percent by using high-efficiency lighting, and by deploying time/motion sensors where appropriate. Special low-flow plumbing fixtures reduce water usage by more than 3.5 million gallons every year.

Other special features include a 6,300 sqft green roof above an outfield concession area that reduces heat gain. To further minimize heat gain, other roof surfaces have been coated with high-reflectance materials. It is estimated that overall energy use is about 15 percent less at Nationals Park than at similar stadiums. 

Safeco Field

In 2014, Safeco Field became the first MLB stadium to use LEDs to light the field. Deploying LED lights saves 784,000-kilowatt hours per year, worth more than $50,000. In an earlier initiative beginning in 2006, the Mariners focused on cutting energy and water use. By 2011, the team had already saved $1.5 million.

AT&T Park

AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants, became the first MLB venue to achieve LEED Gold Certification for its sustainability initiatives at an existing major league stadium.

In 2007, it became the league's first facility to install rooftop solar. Their 123-kilowatt system with 590 solar panels saves 360,000 pounds of greenhouse gases, and generates enough electricity to power more than 5,000 homes.

Their new HD scoreboard uses 78 percent less electricity than its predecessor. The venue also saves energy by reducing the use of irrigation water. 

AT&T Park also has the distinction of having a fully sustainable concession stand. The Section 119 stand is a source for the stadium's popular garlic fires. Energy consumption was reduced by over 36 percent by using both high lumen lamps and advanced ballast lamp starters. All materials in the signage are fully recyclable and biodegradable. The stand also uses recyclable cups and compostable carry trays.

Target Field

According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, Target Field, home of the Minnesota Twins, was certified LEED Silver for new construction in 2010. To achieve this LEED certification, officials did a number of things. They entered into a power purchase agreement (PPA) for wind energy. The procurement strategy offset 70 percent of the facility's total energy consumption that would have otherwise been responsible for 8.8 million pounds of CO2 emissions.

Energy costs are reduced through the use of high-efficiency lighting that saves an estimated $6,000 per year. Waste energy captured from the nearby Hennepin Energy Resource Center heats the playing field and most indoor spaces. Special low-flow plumbing fixtures contribute to a 4.2 million gallon reduction in water use every year.

Miller Park

In 2012, Miller Park completed extensive retrofitting and became a LEED Certified Existing Building. This accomplishment was especially impressive because of the stadium's retractable roof. Despite ventilation and energy use challenges, Miller Park became the first baseball venue with a retractable roof to get LEED certified.

The ballpark enhanced sustainability through many efforts, including analyzing and retrofitting major electrical, HVAC and plumbing systems. Retrofitted plumbing reduced water usage by 3 million gallons annually. Scoreboard energy use was almost cut in half, reducing CO2 emissions by more than 1,100 tons per year. That's equal to taking more than 200 passenger vehicles off the road.

Marlins Park

In 2012, Miami's Marlins Park achieved the distinction of becoming the first MLB stadium to receive LEED Gold Certification for new construction. They achieved a 22 percent reduction in energy use, in part through the use of solar panels. Innovative plumbing at Marlin Park reduced water usage by more than half, and irrigation requirements were cut by 60 percent. 

Energy Leadership that Inspires

When you're out at the ballpark this season, you just might catch sight of these energy savings. From the lights and heating/cooling to water and food, the major leagues are setting a first class example. With hundreds of sports facilities across the country potential candidates for these improvements, too, MLB's leadership is a home run for everyone. 


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Posted: March 29, 2018