Is the NFL Making Solar Panels a Stadium Staple?

The Washington Redskins have begun the construction of 8,000 solar panels in the FedEx Field (NYSE:FDX) parking lot that will help meet a portion of the stadium’s electricity (NYSE:XLE) needs, cutting annual energy use by 15%. The panels will also be used to create an 850-space covered carport with 10 charging stations for electric vehicles. NRG Energy (NYSE:NRG) is installing the three different types of solar panels used in the stadium project.

The solar (NYSE:TAN) project is currently scheduled for completion by the beginning of the 2011 season, if there is a 2011 season. The Redskins will be one of the first NFL teams to use alternative energy sources at their stadium. The Philadelphia Eagles and the Seattle Seahawks are working on other alternative energy projects. The Eagles will be installing on-site wind turbines, solar and bio-fuel systems at Lincoln Financial Field as part of a project that could generate up to 8.6 megawatts of power daily. The stadium currently uses about 7 megawatts at its peak.

The Seahawks have already begun installing a 3,750 panel, 2.5-acre solar array on CenturyLink Field (NYSE:CTL) event center, located next to the stadium, which should cut their energy costs by 21%, according to Clean Energy Authority. The new San Francisco 49ers stadium, scheduled to open in 2014, may also utilize solar panels to partially power the stadium. The Eagles, New York Jets, and New England Patriots all have solar panels at their practice facilities.

Solar (NYSE:TAN) and other alternative energy projects are becoming increasingly more popular, as they not only improve a company’s or brand’s reputation within the community, but they can ultimately save companies thousands, even millions, in energy costs. And professional sports venues “provide great publicity for solar and renewables in general,” said Chris Meehan of Clean Energy Authority. “They reach a far broader audience than most other publicity efforts and they make solar sexier by tying it to something that people enjoy.”