In New Digs, 49ers Will Be An NFL Solar Power

They’re not putting in solar power at the San Francisco 49ers’ under-construction new home, Levi’s Stadium, just to say they did. This is a big system in the works, capable of delivering big power.

NRG Energy, the solar contractor on the Santa Clara, Calif., stadium, which will open for business for the 2014 season, said late last week that it had installed the 49th and final solar power frame over the roof of the suites on the west side of the stadium. As you can see in the photo below, these frames are massive, an altogether they cover 9,574 square feet of the roof with 544 SunPower solar panels.

A solar panel frame is lifted to the rooftop of suites building at Levi's Stadium. (image via NRG Energy)

A solar panel frames is lifted to the rooftop of suites building at Levi’s Stadium. (image via NRG Energy)

Combined with solar panel covered “bridges” at the main entries and exists, Levi’s Stadium will be able to generate up to 375 kilowatts of electricity, NRG said. For comparison sake, the average good-sized home solar power system checks in around 5 kilowatts.

The idea is to produce enough energy through the course of a year to match the total amount used at the stadium during the team’s eight regular-season games.

Stadium developers stayed close to home to source the solar systems, going with San Jose-based SunPower and its high-efficiency E20 series. These are the panels that SunPower launched in 2011 as the first commercially available panels that are at least 20 percent efficient.

(The solar efficiency of a photovoltaic cell indicates how much of the light hitting it is converted to power. Measurements are verified and tracked by the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) in several categories and subcategories depending on the architecture of and materials used in the cell.)

Once completed, Levi’s Stadium expects to become only the second NFL stadium to be LEED certified, following the 2003 renovation and expansion of the Chicago Bears’ Soldier Field, which earned LEED for Existing Buildings certification. The stadium, in the heart of Silicon Valley, would be the first to earn a LEED cert for New Construction.

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.