Posted: November 30, 2009
Pepsi Center goes green
Solar, wind energy credits help shave costsBy Heather McWilliams
When it comes to business, Jeff Scott believes in a bottom-line hat trick rather than a slap shot.
"My passion is to reduce the impact on the planet, make money and feel good because we’re doing the right thing. I definitely subscribe to the triple bottom line," said Scott, founder and owner of Denver-based SolSource Inc.
Such was the goal when Scott installed a 10-kilowatt system on top of the Pepsi Center’s Blue Sky Grill last July as part of a larger strategy to make the Pepsi Center a carbon-neutral venue.
The Pepsi Center’s photovoltaic array should produce 12,000 kilowatt-hours per year. "To date, since we’ve installed it in July, it has avoided 5,518 pounds of carbon dioxide," Scott said, or enough energy to power 89 homes for a day.
That’s a small portion of the 11 million kwh used by the Pepsi Center each year, but an important piece of the venue’s energy-reduction puzzle, said Pepsi Center director of engineering, Craig Smith.
The Pepsi Center’s energy savings tool kit includes flat plate heat exchangers for evaporative cooling, energy efficient lighting, lighting redesigns to allow for natural light, variable frequency drives that match energy output to current need and de-stratification fans for better heat distribution, Smith said.
Wind power from Xcel Energy and renewable energy certificates, or RECs, blend with onsite techniques to further reduce environmental impact.
"Conservation itself is the best way to reduce energy use … It’s great to be able to save money and save cost," Smith said. The Pepsi Center has reduced energy costs by 17 percent despite increased use space and an additional restaurant.
Xcel Energy rebates, which at $4.50 a kwh make up about half the $77,000 price tag for the Pepsi Center’s photovoltaic solar system, coupled with tax credits from the federal government, make economic sense, Scott said. The SolSource installed system should recoup its cost in energy savings in five to seven years.
Kroenke Sports Enterprises, owners of the Pepsi Center, joined the Environmental Protection Agency’s Climate Leaders program in 2007, the only sports venue on the program’s roster of about 240 companies.
"We consider them a very forward-looking partner, and we’ve had a positive experience working with them," said Susan Wickwire, chief of the energy and supply industry branch of the EPA.
The companies in the program create energy inventories vetted by the EPA; plan diverse, long-term emission reduction strategies; and implement them. Companies typically have five years to meet their goals, Wickwire said. At completion, the EPA conducts an onsite visit to ensure goal achievement.
The voluntary program means no fines or consequences if goals aren’t met, Wickwire said, but Climate Leader participants consistently demonstrate a desire to reduce emissions for a variety of reasons.
All this adds up to good business sense. "I think it just helps their overall bottom line to be in this market," Wickwire said. The EPA’s Climate Leaders program experienced more than a 50 percent increase in partners this year.
Kroenke also participates in the EPA’s Green Power Partnership. "Kroenke is in our leadership club for Green Power Partnership because they buy 100 percent power as basically green power," Wickwire said.
The wind power is purchased from an EPA-recommended REC audit program offered by the non-profit Center for Resource Solutions in San Francisco. The company completes REC audits for Sterling Planet Inc., where Kroenke buys its RECs.
The certification ensures the renewable source is new, that the certificate isn’t sold more than once, and that it’s truly voluntary rather than from the government-required compliance market. Purchasing RECs as part of a carbon offsetting tool kit is an upward trend, said Jeff Swenerton, communications director for the Center for Resource Solutions.
"Businesses are making huge purchases and really driving the market," Swenerton said. He calls companies currently swallowing large lots of RECs "in the vanguard" of green energy without a clear monetary return in sight.
"They’re spending money in a down economy to do the right things for the environment, but they’re not even sure how they’re going to get the most mileage out of it," Swenerton said. Current REC purchases may offer a hazy bottom line, but their environmental impact is real, he said.
SolSource owner Scott said that high visibility placement of the photovoltaic cells lets Pepsi Center customers see that the arena uses solar. SolSource also installed at the venue a third-party monitoring system called Fat Spaniel, which displays current energy output at Fat Spaniel’s website.
"We all need to have a long-term vision of energy and real sustainability in the market place," Scott said. "If we keep farming out energy, we’re not going to have anything left here."
By Heather McWilliams
Heather McWilliams is a freelance writer based in Boulder.