Soaring sustainability: Eagles sign with solar-power giant at Phila. stadium

An artist's view of solar panels at Lincoln Financial Field. The installation is due to be completed by December.
An artist's view of solar panels at Lincoln Financial Field. The installation is due to be completed by December. (Rowlands)
Posted: March 02, 2012

A year and a half after first announcing plans for solar power at the Eagles' stadium, the franchise announced Thursday that it had teamed up with a new partner - solar giant NRG of Princeton.

NRG will design, build, and operate an array of more than 11,000 solar panels and 14 micro wind turbines that, over the course of a year, will provide six times the power used during all Eagles home games at Lincoln Financial Field, the team said.

This time, the Eagles are working with a major player, a company that has already done a similar project at the Redskins' stadium, in the suburbs of Washington.

Not that there's a competition, but team officials said it would be the biggest solar array in the NFL.

"It was important for us to be as green as we could be," said Eagles chief operating officer Don Smolenski. "We're trying to be leaders in this area, and if that inspires others to try to catch us . . . it's one of those things where everybody wins."

The installation is due to be completed by December.

Plans call for a wall of panels on the south-facing facade of the stadium - visible from I-95. More panels will be mounted atop the overhangs at the top of the stadium.

Still more will cover some parking spaces. Cars will be able to park underneath, and Smolenski said - half-jokingly - they will not interfere with tailgating or pregame football-tossing.

Plans also call for helix-shaped wind turbines atop the stadium. However, these will be more eco-eye-candy than energy workhorses.

"They'll provide a visual and a symbolic representation of our commitment to clean energy," Smolenski said.

The arrangement is basically a typical "power purchase agreement," where NRG owns the equipment and the energy it generates. The Eagles provide the real estate and agree to buy power back from the company for 20 years at predetermined rates.

Mayor Nutter said he was thrilled the Eagles were moving forward with the project. "This highly visible sustainability project will be viewed by hundreds of thousands of Philadelphians during Eagles game broadcasts and by commuters on the I-95 corridor every day."

NRG has been actively wooing professional sports teams and other major venues.

The idea is that the millions of people who attend or tune in to NFL games every year "will see that solar power really is a viable reality," said company spokesman Stephen Morisseau. "It's not science fiction or off in the future."

In December, the company announced agreements to bring solar power to the stadiums of the New York Jets and Giants, as well as the New England Patriots.

The Eagles are credited with setting a new pace for the league when they launched a Go Green! campaign in 2003.

The team first announced plans for renewable energy at the stadium in 2010. The cornerstone of the project was a cogeneration power plant that would use either biodiesel or gas. That idea eventually fizzled because the logistics became too complicated.

So the team parted company with its original partner, SolarBlue of Florida.

Allen Hershkowitz, director of the sports greening initiative at the Natural Resources Defense Council, a national nonprofit, praised Thursday's announcement.

"These are smart-run businesses," he said. "The people who own the Philadelphia Eagles football team, like many successful businesspeople, pay attention to market realities and trends. And what they're saying is that we've got to get off petroleum, and we've got to do something about climate disruption."

Smolenski said that as much as the Eagles wanted to have the project finished for their home opener this fall, it just wasn't possible.

"We have to be pragmatic and realistic," he said. "It's a significant project. It's going to take a little bit of time."


Contact Sandy Bauers

at 215-854-5147, sbauers@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @sbauers. Read her blog at philly.com/greenspace.

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