Research carried out by the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) and University of New South Wales has found 20,000 megawatt hours of clean energy could be generated simply by installing solar panels on the vacant roofing space of Australia’s major stadiums and head offices of major sporting codes.

And the financial benefits – for professional and community clubs alike – are impressive.

On the back of other ACF research showing temperature increases from climate change will worsen the conditions in which professional sports like cricket, Australian Open tennis and World Tour cycling races operate, this latest research offers positive solutions to the biggest crisis facing a sporting nation.

It found that installing solar panels on stadium and facility roofing could:

  • Generate around 20,000 megawatt hours of energy – enough to power almost 2,900 households annually.
  • Prevent the release of 310,000 tonnes of carbon pollution over two decades.
  • Save cricket, football and AFL codes a combined total of A$3.7 million per year.
  • Create jobs.

According to the researchers, the south of the country leads, but the north has the most solar potential.

North Melbourne Football Club currently leads the way on clean power generation, along with Richmondand St Kilda, all of which have installed 100-kilowatt solar energy systems.

The Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) also uses a similar capacity system to power its water recycling facility.

But the greatest potential exists further north: Gold Coast’s Metricon Stadium – which already dedicates some of its roof space to solar arrays – has the potential to generate 1,647 kilowatts of clean energy.

The Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) could generate 1004 kW of energy, while the Darwin headquarters of Football NT could create 406 kW of power.

ACF campaigns director Paul Sinclair said: “We believe Australian sports can be powered by 100% clean energy by 2030. Sports in Australia face a growing threat from climate change, driven mainly by burning fossil fuels like coal and gas, global warming is drying out sports grounds, disrupting events and increasing health risks for players.

“To become pollution-free in the next decade, Australians need to work together and get on with the job of making our country a clean energy superpower.

“That includes making Australia’s stadiums and clubrooms renewable-powered and energy efficient.”

Following the release of its Powering a Sporting Nation reports, ACF will support up to 75 Australian sporting clubs to receive a free energy consultation from the Australian Energy Foundation.

This will allow clubs to establish a business case for installing solar panels on their club facilities.

“At its best Australian sport brings people together to achieve great things. Now is one of those moments when Australia needs its sportspeople and fans to play like a great team,” added Sinclair.

“Moving to clean energy creates jobs, cuts energy costs and gives Australian rivers, forests and wildlife a chance to thrive.”

Mitigating climate change

The research by UNSW and the Australian PV Institute (APVI) shows there is a lead role for AFL, cricket and soccer clubs, associations and national governing organisations to play in mitigating the impacts of climate change in Australia.

Sports people are at increasing risk from the impacts of climate change. Rising temperatures and more frequent extreme weather events are increasingly disrupting games and causing health issues for players and spectators – from bushfire smoke inhalation to heat stress.

At the same time, sport has an important role to play in helping Australia to cut damaging pollution by moving away from fossil fuels to clean energy. 

Together, the rooftops of AFL clubs, national and state soccer federations and administrative facilities, and the major cricket stadium in each state could host more than 77,000 m2 of solar panels, generating more than 20,000 megawatt- hour (MWh) of energy annually – or enough to power around 2,900 households.

In the long term, by going solar these sports could save a combined total of approximately A$3.7m annually.

Fulfilling this potential would lead to a range of benefits – creating approximately 90 job-years in solar sales and installation, reducing long-term energy costs for clubs and, crucially, mitigating the impacts of climate change already affecting the sports.

A high-level assessment of regional and community clubs across the three sports suggests there may be up to a further 400,000 m2 of viable roof area on club facilities that are not yet being used to create clean energy. This could support solar generation of 100,000 MWh each year, although more detailed analysis is needed.

Beyond the direct benefits of installing solar, sports organisations can contribute to broader action on climate change by setting a positive example for the millions of people who participate in sports across the country.

The Australian Football LeagueCricket Australia and the Football Federation of Australia have an opportunity to become leaders of climate positive action that creates clean energy, jobs and reduces greenhouse gas pollution.

The biggest solar opportunities for sports were laid out in the research.

Metricon Stadium has 1,647 kW of clean energy potential. The Gold Coast Suns AFL team play their home matches at the Metricon Stadium (also called the Carrara Stadium), with their training and administrative headquarters located in the nearby Gold Coast Sports and Leisure Centre.

The SCG has 1,004 kW of clean energy potential. The SCG in Moore Park is the home ground for various sports teams including the New South Wales Blues and the Sydney Sixers cricket teams, as well as AFL’sSydney Swans.

The headquarters of Football Northern Territory (FNT), which has 406kW of clean energy potential, is located in the “Italian Club” on the eastern side of the Marrara Sporting Precinct. Larrakia Park Stadium is also located within the precinct, at the north-western side, with two football pitches and a 1,120-seater grandstand.

Meanwhile, Richmond, St Kilda and North Melbourne football clubs have all installed substantial 100 kW solar energy systems, while the Melbourne Cricket Ground has installed a 99.4 kW solar energy system to power its water recycling facility.

Global leaders

The Australians could do worse than looking to the US and Europe for inspiration on rooftop solar panels. 

The Johann Cruijff Arena in Amsterdam, Netherlands, runs on solar power, with energy captured by 4,200 solar panels and stored in 148 electric car batteries. 

During games, this energy is used to power the stadium. At other times, it can contribute power to the national grid: the batteries store enough electricity to supply 7,000 homes for an hour.

Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia, the home of the Atlanta Falcons, was the first stadium in the world to win Platinum certification for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) from the United States Green Building Council.

Mercedes-Benz Stadium is designed to save 29% in energy usage compared to a typical stadium design.

It has 4,000 solar panels generating around 1.6 million kilowatt hours per year of renewable energy – enough to power 160 households in Atlanta, more than nine Atlanta Falcons home games or 13 Atlanta United home matches.

Image: Metricon Stadium: Editorial credit: DAE Photo / Shutterstock.com

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