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Why do we play sports? Many people would say it is our love of competition that drives us to play. Many people would say it is all about having fun or being healthy. Either way, sports have become a staple of our lives, and they should be.

Sports provide us with an outlet for inspiration, passion, and excitement. Sports can teach us about the benefits of teamwork, hard work, and heartbreak. Sports are also a bridge for equality on multiple fronts. In the US alone, 21.5 Million kids (ages 6-17) play organized sports. Sports provide youth with many opportunities and also promote healthier communities.

There is a lot of scientific literature to support the fact that sports promote healthier communities through physical activity that helps us stay active and healthy; however, sports can also promote healthier and clean communities in another way: solar energy.

According to the Natural Resource Defense Council, over 235 million youth and parents visit both collegiate and professional sports stadiums and arenas each year in the US. Essentially proving the point that, “if you built it, they will come.”

From basketball arenas to football fields and soccer stadiums, solar energy is become an increasingly popular feature in the design of  solar sports stadiums. Stadiums require a significant amount of energy to power to operate a sporting event. Organizations not only see this as an environmental opportunity, but a financial one as well.

FIFA World Cup 2014

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Soccer is the number one most played sports in the entire world. Every four years, the nations of the world compete for international glory in the FIFA World Cup. This year, the World Cup returns to the country of Brazil. The Brazilian State of Pernambuco has previously never had an installed solar system. Now, constructed for the newly built soccer stadium which will host world cup soccer matches, a 1 MW solar system will help provide clean energy to the region.

With 3,500 solar panels on their ground mounted system, the solar system will provide an estimated 1,500 MWh of electricity to Arena Pernambuco per year. This amount of electricity will help serve a roughly 6,000 local citizens in the region. Not only will this system provide clean electricity to the soccer matches, but will provide that same electricity to the community when the arena is not in use; perfect example of the power of net-metering.

Aside from the most popular sport in the world, many popular US sports stadiums have also jumped on the solar train.

National Football League

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The Philadelphia Eagles nest in Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, PA. In 2013, the stadium unveiled over 11,000 solar panels both on the solar sports stadium and in parking areas (as shown above) that would help provide roughly 30% of the stadium's game day needs. In addition to solar, the stadium also has wind turbines added to their collection of clean energy systems. Together, these systems generate about 3 MW of energy.

And similar to Pernambuco Arena, on sunny days when the team isn’t using the facility, the generated electricity will go back into the grid.

College Athletics

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Wells Fargo Arena, home to the Sun Devil’s of Tempe, AZ is also home to a very impressive display of solar PV. With over 2,000 panels, this system generates almost 775,000 KWh of electricity each year. This arena is a multipurpose facility that houses Arizona State University’s basketball, volleyball, gymnastics, and wrestling programs. Not only has Wells Fargo Arena been transformed into a solar sports stadium, but the university as a whole has become a solar hotspot.

Parking areas could be the largest potential opportunity for solar sports stadiums. These often massive paved areas that collect a large amount of sunlight and heat could provide ideal areas for mounted solar structures that otherwise might not be available on certain stadium architecture. Another option could be incorporating solar into the overall design and structure of the stadium, as seen in Aven Satre-Meloy’s, Five Jaw Dropping Solar Architecture Projects.

With so many people either attending sporting events or simply watching on television,  incorporating solar into the realm of sporting events and stadiums provides an outlet to inspire new solar sports locations and raise awareness and education for clean energy. Solar energy not only provides clean electricity for sports but also promotes healthier communities for youth to participate in sports. That is what 100% clean energy is all about; creating healthier and brighter communities for tomorrow.

If you want to learn more about sustainability and sports, check out the Green Sports Alliance.

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