Behind the Scenes at Busch Stadium With the St. Louis Cardinals' Winning Energy Team

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On Monday, April 30, NRDC had the privilege of teaming up with the St. Louis Cardinals to host a tour and discussion of the remarkable improvements they’ve made to their energy systems at Busch Stadium.  Joined by about 25 energy leaders from Missouri – from the local utility to the state energy regulators and advocates – we saw and heard a first-hand account of how the Cardinals not only won the World Series but made an energy triple play – saving money, reducing their use of dirty energy and saving millions of gallons of water every year. 

The Cardinals have been collaborating with NRDC’s Sports Greening Project for four years.  This collaboration is part of NRDC’s enormously successful work greening professional sports throughout North America, helping to make stadium and arena operations more sustainable by reducing energy and water use, promoting recycling and other environmental initiatives, and educating fans at the same time. The Cardinals are a great example.

It may surprise you to learn that, even though Busch Stadium was just built in 2006, the Cardinals were able to identify more than 200 cost-effective energy improvements through an audit performed by Microgrid Energy in 2010.  They’ve already reduced their overall energy consumption by 20%, and they’re not nearly done with that entire list of 200 improvements.  Here are some of the highlights –

  • Steam heating system  – The system for bringing hot water to the showers and the HVAC systems creates hot condensate that need to be cooled before it is discharged to the city sewer system.  But before the improvements, the Cardinals were using more than 5 million gallons of city tap water to cool the piping-hot water before they discharged it.  To address this problem, they created a heat recovery system to capture useful waste heat from the condensate.  This lowers the heat they need to generate for other applications, and eliminates the need for the 5 million gallons of cooling water.     
  • Eliminating nearly 100 tons of large air conditioners – The engineering team realized that for most of the year their electrical rooms could be cooledjust through smart ventilation, rather than running massive air conditioning units.  Now those rooms are only air conditioned on the hottest days of the year instead of continuously.
  • The Cardinals replaced more than 1000 traditional lights with LED lamps, cutting lighting energy use in targeted areas by 90%.
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They even installed solar panels (pictured at right) that will produce enough power each year to grill about 4 million hot dogs!

All told, the Cardinals have invested several hundred thousand dollars and are saving that much each year. This means their investment was paid back in the first year and now the savings can be used to expand and improve their operations in other ways, or to benefit the bottom line. 

It’s important to understand that many of the improvements were partly financed by innovative programs from the state Department of Natural Resources, and through programs offered by Ameren Missouri.  These programs recognize that when Missouri homes and businesses use less energy, all state ratepayers benefit because we need fewer big expensive power plants and transmission lines.  Making our energy system leaner and meaner is good for the economy, our pocketbooks, creates jobs and reduces pollution all at the same time.  Unfortunately, Missouri is lagging behind other Midwest states in terms of taking advantage of energy efficiency to offset more expensive utility costs.  NRDC is working to encourage state utilities and policymakers to embrace energy efficiency in a much bigger way.

I’d like to extend a big thank you to the Cardinals’ Joe Abernathy, and to the folks at Microgrid Energy for spending the day with us and demonstrating the power of efficiency at Busch Stadium.