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PV Powers the World Cup in Brazil

Brazil is to host the World Cup in June and July 2014, when the most successful international soccer team in history will attempt to win the competition for a record sixth time — and for the first time on home soil. The tournament will also present Brazil with a huge opportunity to show the world it is finally ready to achieve its goals in a host of other important areas and leave behind its long-term status as the sleeping giant of the Americas.

Bold plans to make the month-long tournament the most sustainable yet staged are amongst the proposals, and solar power will have a key role to play in turning this ambition into a reality.

Brazil’s blueprint for staging a greener World Cup comes at a time when solar power companies, led by a host of Chinese firms, are investing huge amounts of money into sponsorship of sports and football clubs around the world.

As well as helping to raise solar energy’s profile with millions of sports fans, such deals also seem sure to improve awareness amongst sport’s financial backers of the potential economic benefits of installing panels that can double as both a building material and a clean power generator.

Industry figures predict that solar panels embedded in roofing could become a standard feature of stadia in the near future as the new wave of building integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) gains credibility in the world of big money sports.

Much attention has been given to Qatar’s plans for state-of-the-art solar stadia that helped the Gulf state win the right to host the 2022 World Cup. However, if Brazil realises all its own plans then the 2014 World Cup may yet be remembered as the first green football spectacular — a full eight years before Qatar.

The Brazilian government announced in September 2011 that all 12 tournament stadia would be expected to achieve a minimum sustainability standard. And, it was decided that Brazil’s National Bank of Economic and Social Development (BNDES) will only open lines of finance for stadia committed to achieving the standard. ‘Even the arenas that didn’t request resources from BNDES opted to strive for certification of sustainable construction,’ said Fabricio Barreto, co-ordinator of the certification project for the stadia.

By the start of 2012, 10 of the 12 host venues had applied to the Green Building Council, the US-based non-profit organisation, for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) status.

Of the 10 — Belo Horizonte, Brasília, Cuiabá, Curitiba, Fortaleza, Manaus, Natal, Recife, Rio de Janeiro and Salvador — the jewel in the crown will be the refurbished Mané Garrincha stadium in the capital Brasília, which organisers hope will become the first football stadium in the world to achieve LEED Platinum status, the highest level attainable.

With renovation works due for completion in December 2012, among the key features will be a roof of tensioned canvas featuring an array of PV panels with capacity to generate 2.5 MWp. Sufficient to generate at least 50% of the stadium’s energy needs even in peak periods during the tournament, at other times, the energy produced is expected to comfortably surpass the arena’s needs with the excess being fed into the grid.

According to some reports, the construction costs could eventually surpass R$900 million (US$486 million), up from the R$688 million ($372 million) official estimate.

But a significant drop in operating and maintenance costs will result in annual savings of around R$7 million ($3.78 million) after completion, according to the office in charge of the project, which says it will provide a legacy for 50 years or more.

The revamped Maracanã in Rio, which will host the tournament final, will also have a ring of solar panels within the stadium roof.

The German firm Schlaich Bergermann & Partner has developed plans for the stadium to generate enough solar power to avoid 2560 tonnes of CO2 emissions, although earlier plans for the stadium to offer 3.3 MWp of solar power will not be realised. Nonetheless, solar will have an important role to play at other venues, many of which are still finalising their plans.

The Estádio Governador Magalhães Pinto in Belo Horizonte, better known as the Mineirão, will have up to 1.5 MWp of solar panels installed in its roof.

In the northeastern city of Recife, the Pernambuco Arena will feature solar heating to supply energy to the changing rooms, toilets and kitchens.

Despite the ambitious plans now taking shape, it was only last August that the first concrete plans to install solar panels at a soccer stadium anywhere in Brazil — or indeed Latin America — were disclosed.

The 403 kWp PV system at the Pituaçu Stadium in Salvador, in the northeastern state of Bahia, is being installed in a joint effort by Gehrlicher Solar AG of Germany and Brazil’s Ecoluz Participacoes S.A., under the name Gehrlicher Ecoluz Solar do Brasil S.A. It is expected to provide 630 MWh annually from two different photovoltaic module technologies. The canopy covering most of the 32,157 seats features 238 kWp of US supplier Uni-Solar’s flexible thin-film modules, while the changing room and car park roofs house 165 kWp of Yingli’s monocrystalline modules.

The Mané Garrincha stadium in Brasília (Source: Castro Mello Arq. Esportiva)

Pituaçu will not host any official World Cup matches but will be used for some training sessions. However, the rapid installation of solar at the venue means it has been seen as an important forerunner for hopes of installing solar systems at match venues.

Claudio Langone, co-ordinator of the Chamber of the Environment and Sustainability for the 2014 World Cup, said his team was working ‘to set a new mark for sustainability’.

‘Germany in 2006 did some very good work, and South Africa in 2010 also had some interesting aspects,’ Langone said, referring to the past two World Cup tournaments.

‘In Brazil in 2014 the sustainability of the tournament will be the best so far achieved, incorporating new approaches to this issue. All the stadiums will meet a minimum standard for sustainability in construction, some that also use photovoltaic power will reach a higher standard still.’

With stadia in the cities of Cuiaba, Fortaleza and Manaus also committed, at least seven of the 12 venues are expected to use solar power.


Other locations around the world with high solar yields are also beginning to harness their solar potential for sporting ends.

In 2009 Taiwan inaugurated the world’s first 100 percent solar-powered stadium, featuring 8,844 panels which generate 1.14 GWh annually. Surplus energy from ‘Dragon Stadium’ is sold by the Taiwanese government.

More recently, and on a slightly more modest scale, the Carrara football stadium on Australia’s Gold Coast had 600 glass-glass solar modules with a capacity of 220 kWp integrated into its roof.

According to Scheuten Solar, the Carrara is the largest BIPV project so far in Australia. The PV roof will generate 20 percent of the stadium’s annual energy consumption.

The publicity surrounding high-profile football stadia featuring solar and the matches they stage could act as a catalyst for the technology to be more widely adopted within sport, according to Mike Clay, marketing manager of Wales-based renewables company Dulas.

‘If the roofs are built with PV already integrated, you reduce the costs of the systems,’ he said, adding: ‘I think with the pressure for carbon reduction and the improvements in technology, this should be a de facto part of sports stadia. It should not just be an aspiration. For landmark events like the World Cup there is the PR kudos and the visible commitment to offsetting carbon emissions.’

‘Having a global audience and showing the potential is vital. You get lots of overhead shots of stadiums and if all those shots are showing solar on the roofs that is a good message to be sending to the millions watching.’

So if the use of solar power in sports stadia seems a surefire winner from environmental and public relations perspectives and a safe long-term bet economically, are there any serious potential pitfalls that may hold back its expansion?

Organisers hope that Mané Garrincha stadium in Brasília will become the first football stadium in the world to achieve LEED Platinum status, the highest level attainable. (Source: Castro Mello Arq. Esportiva)

Steven Munday, Renewable Power and Cleantech leader at insurance brokerage Marsh, says: ‘There is nothing that puts it out there as a major insurance risk as such. In some territories, and possibly in Brazil, there are issues of theft risk. Panels are hard to protect. They go up very quickly and if they are removed they are very hard to replace.’

So the costs of security during construction may need to be considered but, as Munday added, ‘the general risks associated with a large construction project... are probably going to outweigh the risks with the panels.’

The issue of performance degradation of panels and the strength of guarantees offered by manufacturers could be a bigger worry though. ‘If there is a faster degradation than expected, normally you would ask the manufacturer to come out and fix the panels so there may be access issues — can you get there to do the replacements and how will that effect a schedule of events?’ says Munday, who also noted: ‘If there are defects will the manufacturer be available for the next 25 to 30 years to make good those panels?’

But Munday also points to the existence of insurance policies drawn up to cover manufacturer insolvencies.

One firm offering a 25-year guarantee for 80 percent or more of nameplate power is Yingli, which has put itself at the centre of the solar industry’s drive to become recognised within sport.

The company was a sponsor of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, becoming both the first Chinese company and first ‘green energy’ firm to sponsor the world’s biggest football event.

During the tournament shares in Yingli rose by 46 percent and, not surprisingly, in June 2011 it signed up as a sponsor of the 2014 World Cup.

Liansheng Miao, Yingli’s chairman and chief executive officer, spoke of the ‘tremendous increase’ in brand awareness and inquiries the company benefited from after South Africa 2010.

But looking ahead to Brazil 2014 he also talked of the chance to help build ‘a greener FIFA World Cup and a more sustainable future with affordable clean energy provided by the sun.’

Yingli is currently involved in confidential talks about the installation of solar energy at 2014 World Cup stadia and the company said it can release no details at present.

The firm, which is also partnered with US Soccer, Bayern Munich (Germany’s top football club), and the New York Jets American football team, is also in talks about powering the temporary FIFA and local organising committee headquarters which will spring up around Brazil in 2014.

But Yingli is far from alone amongst solar manufacturers in venturing into the world of sports advertising.

In Germany no less than 15 solar companies – five of them Chinese – have signed sponsorship deals with clubs in the country’s top football division, the Bundesliga, for a total estimated value of €20 million in 2011.

Philipp Kupfer, a senior key account manager at Sport+Markt, a German consultancy on sports marketing and sponsorship, said the influx of sponsors from one sector was ‘a unique phenomenon’. He predicted that the number of solar sponsors will diminish but that agreements for the provision of solar energy at training grounds or stadia will become ‘a more significant element in deals of this kind’.

‘The topic of corporate social responsibility is important to clubs and solar energy companies alike,’ he said.

Two English clubs, Fulham and Bolton Wanderers, have also signed similar sponsorship deals in a further sign of the global growth of a symbiotic relationship between sport and solar.

Looking ahead to 2014, FIFA, football’s world governing body, has voiced some doubts about Brazil’s ability to meet all the infrastructure challenges it faces, but appears to have no qualms about trumpeting the event’s potential environmental legacy.

Federico Addiechi, FIFA’s head of corporate social responsibility, believes Brazil to be ‘a natural leader’ on sustainability and has spoken of the tournament creating a ‘model to be followed’ for a greener approach to constructing and operating stadia.

Even Munday, the professional risk assessor, agrees that there are great reasons for optimism in considering the partnership potential for sport and solar beyond 2014. ‘Insurers had a bad year in 2011 with Fukushima, the New Zealand earthquake and floods, and stadia location may be an issue [in terms of solar panels in roofing] with the risk of storms and hail damage, but my view based on experience over the past few years is that the cost of solar PV is reducing dramatically and will soon be equivalent to other types of power generation,’ he says, adding: ‘I think you can see it being a standard building material in these sort of structures [sports stadia] going forward.’

It is now in Brazil’s hands to ensure that their World Cup is remembered as the landmark event in solar sports.


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Volume 18, Issue 3


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