Sports: The NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles Go Green

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The NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles are developing a new source of energy—and it’s not just hooking up wires to red-hot quarterback Michael Vick. The team announced today that it will be installing 2,500 solar panels, 80 20-ft high wind turbines and a generator that runs on natural gas and biodiesel, making its home park Lincoln Financial Field the first stadium capable of generating all of its own electricity. Here’s what team owner Jeffrey Lurie had to say at a press conference in Philadelphia this morning:

The Philadelphia Eagles are proud to take this vital step towards energy independence from fossil fuels by powering Lincoln Financial Field with wind, solar and dual-fuel energy sources/ This commitment builds upon our comprehensive environmental sustainability program, which includes energy and water conservation, waste reduction, recycling, composting, toxic chemical avoidance and reforestation. It underscores our strong belief that environmentally sensitive policies are consistent with sound business practices.

The greening of the Linc will be overseen by the Florida-based company Solar Blue, which will spend more than $30 million to get the retrofit ready by the start of the 2011 NFL season. The panels and the wind turbines—which will be spiral-shaped rather than bladed, to produce less noise—will provide about a quarter of the stadium’s energy, with the rest coming form the generator. The Eagles will pay Solar Blue a set price for their energy, with increases of 3% a year over the next 20 years—altogether, the Eagles expect the deal to help reduce their energy costs by almost 25% in the first year. Going green will also give the Eagles some energy security—just last week the New Meadowlands Stadium went dark twice during a game because of a disruption in one of the field’s feeder sources. (At least the home field Giants had an excuse for losing to the Cowboys 33-20.)

The energy announcement marks the latest green initiative from the Eagles, who have been going green with gusto since they moved into the Linc in 2003. (The fact that the Eagles team color is green—midnight green, actually—is purely coincidental.) That can be attributed in part to team owner Lurie, a film producer with Hollywood environmentalist credentials. But more and more teams across the major sports leagues have been greening their operations and pushing environmental messages. The New Jersey Nets have a corporate partner who will donate and plant a tree for every three-pointer the team makes (though the team is 4-7, so we’re not talking about a forest here), while the St. Louis Cardinals have diverted nearly 1,000 tons of waste from landfills and trash bins through their recycling program. The pro sports industry may use a tiny sliver of the nation’s energy, but they are highly visible—around 17 million Americans watched the Eagles beat down the Washington Redskins 59-28 on November 15, and as Allen Hershkowitz of the Natural Resources Defense Council told the New York Times, that makes a difference:

When sports say we’re going to go solar or waterless, that sends an enormous message to the supply chain.

As a Philadelphia-area native and Eagles fan, I’m glad to see the team go green—so like just about everyone else in the City of Brotherly Love, I’d rather see them build an intact offensive line. But I have to admit it’s kind of funny to see the Eagles and their stadium on the cutting edge of anything. Before the team moved into the Linc in 2003, they played their games at a multi-purpose concrete bowl called Veterans Stadium. I used to go there as a kid, and it was indescribably horrible. From the rusting steel girders to the tendon-rupturing artificial turf to the truly unspeakable bathrooms, the Vet was something out of medieval times. Glad to see the Iggles flying ahead—though maybe they could get a Vince Lombardi trophy to go with all of those solar panels.