Red Bull Arena Tour/Follow Up To “How Green Is Your NY/NJ Sports Team” Post

As followers of the GreenSportsBlog know, I’ve been writing a series of occasional posts on the “greenness” (or lack thereof) of the 6 new stadia/arenas that have been constructed in the last 6-7 years in the NY-NJ area.  The fourth and most recent featured Red Bull Arena in Harrison, NJ, the home of Major League Soccer’s New York Red Bulls, which opened in2010.  That post, like the rest of the series, relied on phone interviews and research of publicly-available news stories.  The opportunity to tour the facilities and to ask questions of the project directors would certainly make for more informative posts.

Well, yesterday, I was fortunate and excited to be able to tour Red Bull Arena as part of the Green Sports Alliance Summit.  The Summit, which started today and runs through Wednesday (I’ll be attending Tuesday and Wednesday and blogging from there), is running several NY-NJ stadium tours.  It’s almost as if they wanted to make my series meatier!  Attendees were only allowed to choose one tour so I picked Red Bull Arena with the idea of amplifying the original post.  Here’s what I learned.

RBA Pitch View

Red Bull Arena

WINS

  • The greenest aspect of Red Bull Arena may be its location on a reclaimed Brownfield site.  Contamination at the former 10 acre steel mill was massive.  Cleanup/remediation, initiated by the Town of Harrison, began in 2006, but was accelerated greatly once the Red Bulls began building the arena in 2008.  Cleaning up the Brownfield 3-4 years earlier than originally projected is a big deal! While the site is still being monitored by NJ Department of Environmental Protection for groundwater contamination, the inspections, which at one point were every 3 months, are now conducted yearly.  The hope is that those inspections will no longer be needed in about a year.
  • The lighting system, from Musco Lighting, is quite advanced on several levels and, thus, the arena requires far fewer lights than a less technologically advanced arena:
    • The translucent roof, state-of-the-art and spectacular aesthetically, helps keep light in during late afternoons/dusk which means the lights can be used less.
    • Engineers took into account the urban light effect of both Newark and New York City when determining the necessary amount of lightbulbs.

Red Bull Arena Translucent Roof

The beautiful translucent roof at Red Bull Arena

DRAWS 

  • The Red Bulls did not build the Arena to LEED standards.  According to Amorosa, that was largely because the design phase for the building was largely completed in 2006 when LEED certification standards for outdoor arenas/stadia were first being developed.  To go back and restart the design process would have cost around $500,000 so LEED was not pursued.
  • Similarly LED bulbs are not currently in use.  Again, cost was cited.  Red Bull Arena hosts only 25 event days per year, so the payback on an investment in LEDs is likely quite long.

LOSS

  • The Arena only buys 10% of its electricity from green sources.  Yes, there is a premium to be paid for buying 100% green but that premium is getting smaller all the time.  With annual electricity use of 8,100 mWh, the annual premium for upping the green percentage from 10% to 100% would only be $8,100.  Seems like the right statement for a hugely profitable company like Red Bull to make.  An opportunity missed.

My overall take is that, while Red Bull Arena is operated sustainably in many facets  (NOTE:  We did not learn much about the Food Service aspect of the operation as that is handled by Delaware North Sportservice and they weren’t represented on the tour), “going green” was not a high priority during design and construction.  The construction director who led our tour is justifiably proud of an absolutely gorgeous stadium that gets better than passing energy efficiency grades; I think he’d be prouder if corporate parent Red Bull would invest a modest amount to buy electricity from wind, solar and hydro.

 

6 thoughts on “Red Bull Arena Tour/Follow Up To “How Green Is Your NY/NJ Sports Team” Post”

  1. The Philadelphia Eagles stadium with its 11,000 solar panels and 14 windmills is the model for all to follow. While the Superbowl rings have been elusive to the team, losing last to the mighty New Egland Patriots (who also have put in over 1,000 panels last I was there), the Eagles are the Super Bowl winner in the more important green race. Spending 30 million in partnership with the electric company, the stadium produces 30 percent of its needs and sells the unused power during the off-season back to the grid.

    Lincoln Financial Field even recycles the French fry grease to biodiesel fuel. Finally, if you are crying into your beer cup you Eagles fans, yes if you can admiit who you are, take some solace in the signs all over the stadium that your team recycles everything including the beer cups and that your team is the NFL champion of green stadiums. We take our Patriot hats off to your green efforts and hope our team will follow your lead and continue its green initiative. Love from Boston!!! See you in the Superbowl again….maybe?

  2. Thanks for the comment! Am at the Green Sports Alliance Summit in Brooklyn and Christine Weiss Lurie, Co-Owner of the Eagles, is SPEAKING RIGHT NOW, talking about how they are 1) COMPLETELY OFF GRID (100% energy from wind and solar, and 2) to your point, divert 99% of their waste from landfill. I’ll post later on today’s session. I’m a Jets fan from 1966 but now the Eagles are my 2nd favorite team. Hey, they, like the Jets, wear green as well. Go IGGLES!

  3. Good addition to your earlier post on Red Bulls Stadium. One sentence jumped out at me at the end: “I think he’d be prouder if corporate parent Red Bull would invest a modest amount to buy electricity from wind, solar and hydro.” The Greensportsblog may understand this but I would bet a lot of people including me are confused about this. I know my electric company does not make it clear how i can do this or how much more or less it would cost and if doing so would impact my electric service. I get occassional mailings with offers but dont know anything about the company mailing to me. Can the Greensportsblog help in this regard? Where do the Eagles get their power from? Where would the Red Bulls get it from? Do you have to be a big stadium user to make an impact? How can one fan help?

  4. Bruce, thanks for the comment and the great questions. I’ll do the best I can to answer them clearly. First, can you as a residential electricity customer choose your own supplier? The answer to that depends on what state you live in. Over the last 15 or so years, Energy markets have been deregulated, or, more accurately, re-regulated, as there still is regulation, it’s just different regulation. That regulation is state-by-state or even utility region by utility region, not national in scope.

    Prior to the late ’80s, energy delivery (the wires and infrastructure and power plants that carry electrons to businesses and homes) and supply (the actual electrons) were all the purview of the utility. Energy delivery-as-legal-monopoly makes sense: Do we really want multiple power lines for multiple companies. But why should electricity supply be a legal monopoly? The consensus in many states is the market is better served by competition and thus, the move to decouple delivery (still the utility’s bailiwick) and supply (competition) advanced.

    In New York City, where I live, and Lower Westchester County (the ConEd service territory), residential customers have a choice of upwards of 2 dozen electricity supply companies. ConEd is one of those companies but they are eventually getting out of the supply business to concentrate solely on delivery. They are required by law to accept the supply from any licensed “Energy Service Company” or ESCO. Competitors include Direct Energy, Constellation Energy and Green Mountain Energy. The latter only offers residential customers electricity from 100% non-polluting (“green”) sources. You can check them out at http://www.greenmountain.com (Full disclosure: I have worked with Green Mountain Energy as a consultant since 2010). Other ESCOs offer a choice of blended products (i.e. 10% green/90% brown) and 100% green. The point is the customer has the choice, it costs nothing to switch and you are still billed only by ConEd. Your supply charges are broken out on the bill and labeled as “XX KWH used, supplied from YY ESCO”.

    In New Jersey, customers can choose both electricity AND natural gas suppliers. That list and the price is based on which service territory you are in (PSE&G, JCP&L, etc.). Connecticut is similar. Other states are more restrictive (i.e. few companies to choose from).

    Customers can also choose to lock in a price for a specific time period (typically a 12- or 24-month deal) or continue with month-to-month pricing.

    Comparing company offers is often a laborious process as, depending on your market, you might have many choices. There is no resource on the residential side that provides pricing of all of the licensed suppliers. So you need to sift through the offers. I wish that weren’t the case.

    The Eagles partnered with NRG for a solar and wind system at The Linc. 11,000 solar panels and 14 wind turbines generate 3 megawatt hours (mWh) of electricity annually, about 6 times the energy needed for the home games! The deal was financed by a Power Purchase Agreement in which NRG designed, installed and maintains the system at no charge to the Eagles. The $30 million upfront cost was financed by NRG. The Eagles agree to buy all of the electricity the system generates at an agreed upon price, with an inflation adjuster, for 20 years. Assuming the Eagles continue to exist and continue to pay their bills NRG should realize a competitive ROI. The Eagles also have solar panels at their training center/corporate offices.

    The Red Bulls do not have any on-site generation. Rather, they contract with an ESCO (not sure who they use) to make sure that 10% of their electricity supply is sourced from renewables (wind, solar and hydro, mainly). The ESCO either generates its own energy or buys it from a 3rd party. To be clear, this does not mean that the electrons that the Red Bulls bought actually come into Red Bull Arena. It ensures that those electrons get to the grid for electricity somewhere. Think of the grid as a giant bathtub with a gazillion drains. Electrons come into it from many places and go out through those many drains. The more business and residential customers direct their electricity purchases to clean, renewable sources, more renewable energy will be generated.

    So, depending on state and region, you can make the choice for renewable energy for your house or apartment. And you can write/email/bug your favorite teams to do the same.

    Did you get answers to your questions? Let me know if you need more clarification.

Leave a Reply