AT&T Park to go solar

Published on

San Jose Mercury News (California)

When the San Francisco Giants need power, they usually look to Barry Bonds. But now they’ll have a new source: the sun.

Embracing the Bay Area’s booming interest in renewable energy and working to harness a green public relations boost, the Giants will become the first major league baseball franchise to install solar panels on their stadium.

Team president Peter Magowan and Tom King, CEO of Pacific Gas & Electric, are set to announce Wednesday that 590 solar panels will be installed at AT&T Park, generating the same electricity as about 40 home roof systems.

Most of the panels will be built like awnings over brick archways on the back of the stadium near McCovey Cove, said Giants spokeswoman Staci Slaughter, with others placed on the roof near the front of the stadium by the Acme Chophouse restaurant. They are scheduled to be installed starting in April, with completion in about two months.

“The whole green movement has always been intriguing to us,” said Slaughter. “We think this is a great opportunity to showcase green energy and renewable energy sources. Our ballpark can help promote important causes in the city.”

The agreement is somewhat unusual, however.

The Giants won’t pay for the solar panels. Nor will the electricity generated from them power the stadium. Instead, PG&E will purchase and pay to install and maintain the panels. PG&E will own them and the electricity, said PG&E spokesman Keely Wachs. The approximately 123 kilowatts of power from the panels will be transmitted to the general power grid, and PG&E will sell it to its customers around Northern California.

So in some ways, the stadium is a Giant solar billboard.

“As a company we are trying to promote solar as much as possible,” said Wachs. “We’re demonstrating that with this partnership.”

Wachs would not say how much the project is costing PG&E. He said that no ratepayer money or taxpayer funds will be used, and that funding will come from PG&E shareholders.

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom is set to be on hand Wednesday at a news conference to announce the project. Although a press release from the Giants and PG&E said the electricty will be sent “into San Francisco’s power grid to help the city achieve its goal to become the greenest city in the nation,” once on the grid, electricity can move over great distances, with no guarantee that the “clean power” will stay in San Francisco.

“The electricity from this could end up anywhere — in Yolo County, or even across the Bay, lighting up the A’s stadium,” said Jamie Court, president of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, a Los Angeles consumer rights group.

Ironically, the Giants are not a PG&E customer.

Like some large corporations that signed contracts with power-generating companies after the California blackouts six years ago, the Giants obtain their electricity to run AT&T Park from a “direct access provider,” not PG&E. Slaughter, the Giants spokeswoman, did not disclose where the stadium obtains its electricity.

The Giants were the first major league team to install wireless internet access in their stadium and the first to hire a female public address announcer. But they aren’t the first team to install solar.

That claim goes to the Great Lakes Loons, the Class A minor league team of the Los Angeles Dodgers, which announced plans to install 168 solar panels on their stadium in Midland, Mich., last year. The panels will power the scoreboard for the Loons’ home games this summer.
Contact Paul Rogers at [email protected] or (408) 920-5045.

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