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Softball Goes Solar

Oct 10, 2013

By Mary Kate Lau, SDA Digital Communications Intern

Teams at Arizona State have always used the blistering hot sun to their advantage- conditioning in the hot temps so they are still going strong while visiting opponents wilt under the desert heat. But over the past few years, they have found a new way to take advantage of their surroundings.

ASU is leading the way by utilizing sun energy as a way to promote green measures in athletics. In August, the Natural Resources Defense Council recognized Arizona State’s solar efforts and named it one of the top-ten athletic departments in the nation for sustainability.

Nine Sun Devil Athletics’ facilities use solar panels, more than any other school in the nation. In 2009, the Weatherup facility, used for basketball training, became the first Gold certified college sports facility in the country by Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, (LEED), a part of the U.S. Green building Council and considered a driving force in recognizing innovation in sustainable construction.

“We take pride in the fact that when building or renovating our venues, we have been able to use sustainable materials and reduce waste,” Senior Associate Athletic Director Dawn Rogers said.

The newest member of the Sun Devil Athletics’ green family was recently finished: installing a shade canopy over the seating area at Farrington Stadium, aloft with solar panels, creating a top-notch energy producing stadium to match the top-notch team.

“The solar panels are a constant reminder of the innovation of our leadership and pushes us all to create more opportunities to be green,” Rogers said. “We strive to be on the cutting edge of sustainable practices.

Here are the specifics on Farrington: The steel structures, installed by Ameresco Southwest, cover the upper-deck seating supporting 864 Polycrystalline 290-Watt solar panels. The solar system has a maximum generating power of 250.56 kWdc.

According to sustainability experts at ASU, the stadium is projected to produce over 404,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of clean renewable energy annually.

You’re probably wondering: what does all that mean? What’s a kilowatt hour? Broken down in layman's terms, if you run an appliance, like a hairdryer or a microwave, for one hour, you will use about one kilowatt hour. Using those examples, the energy produced by Farrington could microwave almost six million meals or style 1.6 million hairdos per year.

Another way of looking at it that’s a little more practical, Farrington will generate enough energy to power 35 single family homes for one year.

ASU partnered with APS to install the solar shade canopy through their Renewable Energy Incentive Program. After the utility approved the incentive, the school contracted with Ameresco to design and install the system.

It is difficult to predict if Farrington’s additions will produce more energy than it uses because the stadium shares a meter with the Weatherup facility making it a challenge to differentiate energy consumption between the two facilities, according to Jean Humphries of the ASU Solar Team.

Even without clear numbers on its usage, Farrington Stadium will now stand as another pillar, representing the Sun Devils’ mission to soak up as much as they can from the Valley of the Sun on the field and above it.

The team has started their Fall game schedule and make sure to check out the new solar installation at the Annual Arizona State Softball Alumni game on Oct. 18, at Farrington Stadium.