TV Audiences Will Get Different View of Solar

This weekend, the solar industry is trading in the hot lights of the Congressional interrogation chamber for the bright lights of television.

In a week that’s been dominated by headlines about the growing Solyndra scandal, primetime television viewers and rabid sports junkies can catch a glimpse of the reality that’s been lost in recent days: Solar panels can generate more than just politically supercharged outrage. They also generate power.

And is there anywhere better to generate that power than along the red carpet of Hollywood and atop the slice of American culture that is Sunday football?

Just outside Washington (ironic, isn’t it?), the Washington Redskins unveiled this week a 2-megawatt (MW) photovoltaics system that will power FedEx Field and will include 8,000 panels that cover parking spaces, power electric vehicle charging stations and line the roof. And that’s not to mention the 30-foot-tall “Solar Man” statue with integrated solar panels. According to NRG Energy, the system is the largest in the NFL and will power about 20 percent of the stadium’s energy needs on game day and 100 percent on non-game days.

The installation will be on display not only for fans but for many NFL viewers across the country in what is being dubbed “The Solar Bowl.” The game against the Arizona Cardinals is being carried by FOX and will be shown in several markets, including Arizona, which knows a thing or two about solar.

Once the sun sets on the East Coast, viewers can stay with FOX and tune in to the 63rd Primetime Emmys as TV’s biggest stars parade down a recycled red carpet and beneath a canopy of SolarWorld panels that will help power the event. After the show, panels from the 50-kilowatt system (kW) will be donated to Habitat for Humanity of Greater Los Angeles.

While the wind industry has taken its case for renewable power straight to the supermarket with its new WindMade label, the solar industry seems to be going the cultural route in an effort to get more residents in the U.S. and abroad to understand the technology and appreciate its potential impact.

You don’t have to look much farther than soccer fields across the world to see the solar marketing push. Chinese companies like Suntech and Yingli have set their sights on Germany’s biggest soccer league. For Yingli, the soccer effort doesn’t stop there. The company is the first in the solar industry to become a sponsor of U.S. Soccer national teams and they are also a sponsor of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Construction has already started in Brazil on South America’s first solar-powered soccer stadium and the country plans to have solar installations at all its World Cup venues prior to 2014.

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Steve Leone has been a journalist for more than 15 years and has worked for news organizations in Rhode Island, Maine, New Hampshire, Virginia and California.

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