While the bright lights, JumbTrons and disposable beer cups make NBA basketball games far from an eco-friendly event, one team is trying to take a bite out of their own carbon footprint. The Phoenix Suns celebrated their new 227-kilowat solar system, made possible through a partnership with Arizona Public Service and the city of Phoenix.
In a city boasting the highest average number of sunny days each year, it only makes sense that Phoenix’s basketball team be both named after and powered by the sun. (And, indeed, a National Resource Defense Council guide for solar development at professional sports venue pointed to Phoenix as having great potential.) The APS SunsPowered Solar Structure now sits on top of a US Airways Center parking garage. The 966 panel installation covers 17,000 square feet and expected to put out 378,000 kilowatt-hours of energy per year—making 20 of the Suns’ game days powered by renewable energy.
Known for his environmentally-friendly endeavors, Suns guard Steve Nash pushed for the solar installation and participated in the dedication ceremony. “The spirit of innovation and environmental consciousness shown by the Suns, APS and the City of Phoenix is something I’m proud to be a part of,” said Nash. “I’ve become very passionate towards environmental issues over the years, so it’s great to know that solar power is now impacting my life both at home and here at work.”
Knowing that not all of their impact is melted away from one solar installation, the Phoenix Suns have also converted all the arena’s lighting to energy efficient lighting, implemented recycling both inside the arena and their office, and started an incentive-driven carpooling program for employees.
The Phoenix Suns are not the only team greening their stadium—the Staples Center in Los Angeles installed a 25,000-square-foot array in 2008; Portland’s Rose Garden and Orlando’s Amway Center scored LEED Gold; Fenway Stadium uses solar to heat its water; and just recently the Philadelphia Eagles announced plans to install both wind and solar power systems at Lincoln Financial Field.
Most solar installations are too small to cover the enormous amount of energy demanded by the stadiums, but we can hope the momentum continues in the right direction and encourages teams to go even greener.