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Solar summit - and game - brings Cardinals CEO to Washington

WASHINGTON – The Arizona Cardinals will have a reminder of the Valley of the Sun when the lights come on this weekend for their game against the Washington Redskins.

Sunshine will power some of the lights at FedEx Field.

The Redskins and NRG Energy unveiled a 2-megawatt solar array Thursday that will supply up to 20 percent of game-day power demand at the Landover, Md., stadium, a fact not lost on Cardinals President Michael Bidwill.

“We see what NRG and the Washington Redskins are doing … and we are looking at different things as we go forward,” said Bidwill.

He came to Washington a few days early to see the stadium and to speak at a “solar summit” organized by the office of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Tucson.

The meeting pulled together a handful of academic, business leaders and bureaucrats to talk about newly “green” FedEx Field and solar-power opportunities across the U.S.

“Renewable energy is not a Republican idea or a Democratic idea or a Tea Party idea … it’s just a good idea,” said Kris Mayes, a professor at Arizona State University. “We ought to be doing more of it.”

Mayes, the faculty director of ASU’s Program on Law and Sustainability and a former member of the Arizona Corporation Commission, said investing in solar energy makes sense on several levels.

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She compared older power plants to an old car. You wouldn’t put $20,000 in to a 15- or 20-year-old car, she said, so states should not invest billions of dollars to “retrofit coal plants that are already too old.”

Solar will carry into future generations, she said, and has already captured the attention of younger generations. Mayes pointed to students at Deer Valley High School who pushed to get their school to go “green.” Officials installed solar panels on the school’s roof.

“The next generation believes in solar energy and I think it’s up to us to lay the groundwork for them,” Mayes said.

The summit included panels on policy and a look at the solar industry.

Giffords was not present but her name was invoked by several speakers, including Bidwill, who worked with Giffords to support solar power development while he was a member of the Greater Phoenix Economic Counsel.

He embraced the Redskins’ move to go solar and said the Cardinals may not be far behind.

Last season the Cardinals made the University of Phoenix Stadium a “green-powered” facility, using only renewable energy to power the building during home games. It took 113,500 kilowatt-hours to keep the lights on last season, the equivalent of powering 60 homes for a year, according to the Salt River Project.

“There are other teams that are doing all sorts of things and I’m certain that the Cardinals – especially with my involvement in solar in Arizona – will be” doing so, Bidwill said.

With the project unveiled Thursday, the Redskins can claim the largest solar-power installation of any team in the National Football League.

The project by NRG includes 7,500 solar panels over more than 800 of the stadium’s parking spots and a 30-foot-tall silhouette of a quarterback made of a thin solar film will also help generate power.

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The resulting 2 megawatts of power can provide all the stadium’s power on off days and up to 20 percent on game days, according to NRG.

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Click image to enlarge

Max Taylor, courtesy NRG Energy

Solar-power elements at the Washington Redskins FedEx Field include panels in the parking lot and in the football player sculpture. The project, by the Redskins and NRG Energy, gives the team the largest solar installation in the National Football League.