The Qwest Field Event Center in Seattle is ground zero for Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen's little green experiment. It has everything an environmentally conscious sports fan is looking for: low-flow water fixtures, high-efficiency lighting, recycling and now 3,750 solar panels from Solyndra that will cover 80 percent of the roof. Never mind that the average sports fan even notices these eco-minded measures, or cares. This is a revolution, man. And it starts here.
The Green Sports Alliance -- a non-profit created this year by Allen -- is busy spreading the green word throughout the sports kingdom. Just a half a dozen teams have signed on so far including the Seattle Seahawks, Sounders FC and the Portland Trailblazers, which are all conveniently owned by Allen. The Qwest Field, which is managed by Allen's company First & Goal, also is a Green Alliance member. Allen has actually made some headway, although most of his converts are teams he owns. Rose Garden Arena, home to the Portland Trail Blazers, was the first major league sports facility to earn LEED Gold Status for its energy savings efforts.
This eco-mindedness may not be the rule in sports, but it's becoming more common especially with new construction. For example, the Minnesota Twins' new stadium includes a rainwater recycling system and the Philadelphia Eagles stadium will run on self-generated energy via small wind turbines and solar panels by September.
The project will be a very public test of Solyndra's solar technology, which continues to be controversial. The California-based company makes cylindrical modules that use copper indium gallium diselenide (CIGS) thin-film technology. The 360-degree shape allows it to capture both direct and reflected sunlight. It's just the kind of design that's necessary in cloudy Seattle. But critics argue Solyndra's CIGs solar panels will never be able to compete with crystalline panels and have castigated the Energy Department for awarding the company a loan guarantee.
Allen's techno-cred goes a long way here. His decision to award Solyndra the Qwest Field solar contract is nothing short of a flat out endorsement of the CIGs technology and solar in general. If Allen can prove that solar is the right and economically smart choice for Seattle, other team owners might just follow.