As Patriots (and pro sports) go solar, will fans follow?
The New England Patriots are just the latest to turn to solar energy to power their vast complexes. From Boston to Los Angeles, teams are taking advantage of the falling price of solar panels. But for their fans, it's a bigger financial leap.
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In Major League Baseball, the St. Louis Cardinals, Kansas City Royals, Boston Red Sox, and San Francisco Giants boast solar arrays at their facilities. The Staples Center in Los Angeles – home to the National Basketball Association's Lakers and Clippers, and the National Hockey League's Kings – has had a 1,727-panel rooftop solar array since 2008.Skip to next paragraph
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Residential installations have more than doubled since 2010, but Mr. Jacobson estimates that residential solar is at least three times as expensive as large commercial installations. "So a $6-per-watt bid on a home might be $1.75 or $2 on a commercial building," he adds.
Costs are coming down, however. The average price of a solar panel has dropped 50 percent in the previous year, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.
Another issue: space. Sports complexes have or can build a wide variety of flat-topped structures that can accommodate, or be made into, solar arrays. Options on the average American rooftop are far more limited, which means smaller power generating potential. The average rooftop solar array is around 5 kilowatts, requiring 500 square feet of unobstructed roof space.
Then there's financing. The federal government offers a 30 percent tax credit off the cost of a solar installation, with no maximum. But many homeowners may not owe as much in taxes as they would earn from the solar tax credit. SunRun, a California-based company that leases out solar arrays, notes on its website that if a household installs $45,000 worth of solar panels, they would have to have at least a $13,500 tax bill to take full advantage of the federal solar credit. And many families can't foot the bill for the still-steep upfront costs of solar, even if the investment will pay for itself in the long term.
Still, other options are becoming available, including leasing panels and pitching in with neighbors to get a bulk rate. If the National Football League, with its huge fan base and commercial reach, can convince Americans to look into the idea, residential solar could take a big step forward.
Stadium solar panels are "a high profile demonstration to a mass consumer audience that clean energy choices are here today," Tom Gros, president of solar-installer NRG Solutions, writes via e-mail. "Stadiums may be big, but this project shows that any business with a parking lot or roof space can cut costs through renewable energy."