Redskins' FedEx Field unveils solar installations

FedEx Field in Landover, Md., home to the Washington Redskins, unveiled its new 2-megawatt photovoltaic system on Sept. 15. The array, installed by NRG Energy, Inc. (NYSE: NRG), is the largest at an NFL stadium to date, according to the company.

The 2 megawatt system consists of three unique applications of photovoltaics, SunPower Corp. (NASDAQ: SNPWR) modules on canopies over parking spaces, with two electric vehicle charging stations (eight more are in another parking lot); panels covering a ramp structure including translucent modules from Schott, and roof panels; and flexible thin-film photovoltaics from Konarka, integrated into a 30-foot sculpture of a football player.

“An NRG-branded entry plaza at Gate A will inform fans about renewable energy and showcase clean energy technologies,” the company said in a press release.

"It’s an opportunity for us to show fans the benefits of solar energy. It raises their awareness and gives them the big picture,” said NRG spokesperson Lori Neuman. “It’s a good opportunity for us to reach out to the public. We’ve done some promotions to support the project throughout the stadium."

In all, the system includes more than 8,000 photovoltaic modules and is capable of powering 100 percent of the stadium’s solar needs on non-game days and 20 percent of the stadium’s power during game days, according to NRG. The stadium’s array is under a nine-year agreement with NRG, the company said.

But what might be most impressive is the time to completion of the project. In June, NRG and the Washington Redskins began designing the arrays for the stadium. They publicly announced the project July 13, Neuman said. And the installations were completed within roughly two months.

To show the solar installations off, the Redskins and NRG held a press conference today.

“The system is complete, it just has to be commissioned,” Neuman said. “This is more of a symbolic flipping of the switch.”

The Redskins join a growing number of sports teams and for that matter, leagues, that are adding photovoltaics and other renewables to their venues. Others include the Seattle Seahawks, which completed a 2.5 acre-array of photovoltaics earlier this summer, the Arizona Diamondbacks, the New York Yankees and more.

Such venues are seen as excellent opportunities for teams to show their fans the benefits of solar in a familiar environment. To help further that, the Natural Resources Defense Council and Bonneville Environmental Foundation issued a publication intended to help stadiums add solar in. While some have used the guide, like the Seahawks, the Redskins did not, Neuman said.

NRG had been a traditional wholesale generator of electricity until 2009, but with the acquisitions of Reliant Energy, which provides power to the stadium, and Green Mountain Energy, the company is increasingly moving into the retail market in the U.S. It’s also among the largest developers of utility-scale solar projects in the U.S., including the 290-megawatt Agua Caliente project and the 392-megawatt Ivanpah solar project.