Smarter Business: Case Studies

Qwest Field Event Center

Photo: CenturyLink Field Event Center

Challenge

Almost half of the electricity produced in the U.S. comes from the burning of coal, a large proportion of which is extracted from the Appalachian mountains. Some of the coal obtained from Appalachia is acquired through a process known as Mountaintop Removal Coal mining, which literally blows up mountains, reducing them to rubble in order to get to subsurface coal seams. This process throws underground miners out of work and has so far decimated more than one million acres biologically rich Appalachian forest, , has buried thousands of miles of streams with mining debris, and costs Americans $345 billion annually in health and environmental costs, according to Harvard Medical school. Burning coal is also the number one source of climate-disrupting greenhouse gases worldwide.

Though renewable energy—including solar and wind power—requires upfront investment, it’s the best available alternative to destructive energy sources, like coal. Until recently, about 35 percent of the CenturyLink Field Event Center’s power has come from coal, but the stadium is now building the largest solar installation in Washington state to cut the facility’s energy costs and environmental impact.


Strategy

In May 2011, the Seattle Seahawks, First & Goal Inc. (FGI) and Sounders Football Club professional sports teams announced the installation of an enormous solar array on the roof of the vast CenturyLink Field Event Center, which can host up to 72,000 people. The solar installation covers over 2.5 acres, spreading across 80 percent of the Event Center roof. The project consists of 3,750 thin-film solar panels manufactured in the U.S. by Solyndra. The unique technology captures both direct and reflected sunlight as each panel is comprised of many tubes, each with a 360-degree cylindrical surface. The facility is also equipped with a “cool roof” that conserves energy by reducing heat absorption through the roof, lowering building cooling costs.

CenturyLink Field used NRDC's Solar Guide to instruct their planning process and get the project off the ground. "The Solar Guide provided by the NRDC and BEF was instrumental in helping us develop our request for proposal (RFP) and the evaluation of the each contractors submittal," says Darryl Benge, Assistant General Manager of CenturyLink Field. "Without this resource, we wouldn’t have been able to be as comprehensive in our approach as we were. Having this tool made the process much easier for all parties involved."

Seattle-based McKinstry, a full service design-build firm specializing in energy solutions, is managing the solar panal installation in addition to developing a comprehensive resource conservation project for CenturyLink Field and Event Center. In addition to the solar installation, CenturyLink Field hopes to cut energy and water use throughout the complex by installing mechanical system upgrades, high-efficiency lighting and ultra-low flow water fixtures, all of which support the facility’s commitment to sustainability. CenturyLink Field managed the upfront financial investment and implemented these upgrades with help from rebates provided by Seattle's two main utilities, Seattle City Light and Seattle Public Utilities.


Results

Currently still in the installation process, the system is expected to be fully operational in late summer 2011. The panels are projected to generate over 830,000 kWh of electricity annually, the equivalent of powering 95 Seattle area homes for a year. The combined projects will result in a 21 percent reduction in annual utility costs. This new clean energy source, alongside the new energy conservation measures, will also reduce the facility’s carbon footprint by 1,346 metric tons of carbon emissions per year.

CenturyLink Field also partnered with Seattle’s electrical union to provide training opportunities and  clean energy jobs for local tradespeople


About

First & Goal Inc. (FGI) was formed by Paul G. Allen in 1997 after voters in Washington State approved the proposal to build a new football/soccer stadium and Exhibition Center. FGI was the private partner in the development of CenturyLink Field along with the public partner, the Public Stadium Authority. FGI now serves as the operator of the CenturyLink Field facility.

McKinstry is a full-service, design-build-operate-and-maintain (DBOM) firm specializing in consulting, construction, energy and facility services. They employ over 1,600 professional staff and tradespeople throughout the Pacific Northwest, Rocky Mountains, West, Midwest, and Southwest regions of the United States with operations in more than 15 states. McKinstry advocates collaborative and sustainable solutions designed to ensure occupant comfort, improve systems efficiency, reduce facility operational costs, and ultimately optimize profitability for "The Life of Your Building".

Headquartered in Fremont, California, Solyndra designs and manufactures photovoltaic systems, comprised of panels and mounts, for the commercial rooftop market. Using proprietary cylindrical modules and thin film technology, Solyndra’s light-weight, non-penetrating systems are designed to provide simple and easy installations at a low cost.


Resources

last revised 6/16/2011

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