Oct 15, 2013

Renewable energy keeps sports fields green

5 min
Sometimes the best ideas begin with a simple trip to the bathroom. “That’s how it all started. The work began with toilet pape...

Sometimes the best ideas begin with a simple trip to the bathroom.

“That’s how it all started. The work began with toilet paper,” says Allen Hershkowitz, Ph.D., a senior scientist at Natural Resources Defense Council and director of the NRDC Sports Project.

Hershkowitz focused on solid waste management, recycling, and the paper industry for NRDC before Jeffrey Lurie called in 2004 and asked for help in making his team and stadium sustainable. Lurie, the owner of the Philadelphia Eagles, had just opened Lincoln Financial Field, the team’s state-of-the-art stadium. He wanted to “green the team” and contacted Hershkowitz, who was known for his work in sustainable development.

“The first thing I asked him was ‘Where are you getting your toilet paper?’” Hershkowitz says. “They were getting their toilet paper from a place that was also an eagle habitat. They were having eagle habitat cut down so people could wipe their butts at Eagles stadium. That looked like a branding liability to me.”

And so the first battle in the sports greening movement was waged with a paper company about supplying recycled content and to stop producing toilet paper from trees.

Small Ideas Lead to Big Changes

There is no single initiative that will solve climate change. There is no technology that will fix everything with push of a button. Millions of poor decisions over the past 200 years have harmed the environment and it will take millions of more intelligent global-friendly decisions to change that course.

“It's not only that small changes lead to big results, but there is no one big thing we could do to deal with global warming,” Hershkowitz says. “That means carefully choosing what kind of paper you buy, what kind of food you serve, what kind of energy you use. Where are you getting your water? How are you managing your waste? What's the supply chain of your textiles?”

All those issues are in play right now with professional sports, which is a $450 billion industry. Sports brings people together and is ingrained in societies throughout the world – especially in the United States. If the sports industry has embraced renewable energy, recycling, and reducing its carbon footprint, then the majority of society may just follow their lead and adopt environmentally-friendly practices as the new standard operating procedure.

“Who do people trust? They don't trust the government,” Hershkowitz says. “They trust business. They certainly trust sports. Sports unites people and it’s a trusted network. Sports is now changing the culture of how Americans think about the environment.”

Stadiums Carbon Unloading

After getting the Eagles to switch to recycled toilet paper, Hershkowitz became the environmental advisor for Lincoln Financial Field and broadened the program to include carbon emissions, waste, water, and chemicals; and developed the first stadium greening initiative.

The Eagles installed 11,000 solar panels and 14 wind turbines to make Lincoln Financial Field the first professional stadium in the U.S. capable of generating all of its electricity onsite. The team purchases 14 million kilowatt-hours of renewable energy credits annually and 100 percent of team operations are powered by clean energy generated on U.S. wind farms. Also, they converted all of their tissue paper products to 100 percent post-consumer recycled paper.

“It's a great model nationally, probably the best in the NFL, and of course what the 49ers are planning to do is going to exceed even that – so that's spectacular commitment,” Hershkowitz says.

In Santa Clara, Calif., the San Francisco 49ers’ new stadium is under construction and the team is planning for it to become the first professional football venue to open with LEED certification in 2014. Levi’s Stadium, which is scheduled to host Super Bowl L in 2016, is a $1.2 billion project that includes solar arrays and canopies that will produce 400 kilowatts. The stadium’s other green initiatives include public transit access, bicycle parking, water-conserving plumbing fixtures, and recycled materials.

“… the new Santa Clara Stadium [is] an economically and environmentally sustainable showcase for innovation,” said Jed York, CEO, San Francisco 49ers, in a released statement.

“This really is a golden age of energy efficiency at stadiums and arenas in the country,” Hershkowitz says. “This is really is a green building initiative, except that when a big commercial building goes green, you don't get the kind of visibility and messaging that you do when Yankee Stadium or Fenway Park goes green.”

The Boys of Summer

Is there anything better than Fenway Park, bathed in late summer sun, and bustling with energy in the midst of another Pennant race? The 101-year-old ballpark, nestled in the Fenway-Kenmore neighborhood of Boston, which has seen its share of renovations, has recently incorporated green initiatives as well. The Red Sox installed 28 solar panels across the roof of the dugout, which will supply 37 percent of the energy needed to heat the stadium’s water. The park also reduced water usage by 30 percent by installing water-efficient fixtures.

In 2005, Hershkowitz met with Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig about greening the game. Selig embraced the idea, making the NRDC and MLB the first league-wide greening initiative collaboration. After that, NBA and NHL commissioners David Stern and Gary Bettman, respectively, started working with the NRDC.

“We are seeing existing stadiums and arenas getting energy efficiency audits done and then retrofitting HVAC systems, installing onsite renewable energy sources, and reducing waste,” Hershkowitz says. “These stadiums and arenas are iconic cultural institutions.”

Recently Billy Jean King reached out and wanted the National Tennis Center and U.S. Open to go green. Eventually the NRDC developed comprehensive greening programs for the professional leagues, many pro teams, college stadiums, and signature events such as the World Series, the MLB All-Star game, WTA’s Family Circle Cup, and the NBA Playoffs.

“What does this mean culturally?” Hershkowitz says. “Over the last five to six years the embrace of environmental stewardship by sports has really helped send a signal to society, businesses, and energy companies, that this way of thinking is now a part of the culture. That's never happened before and this change is being instigated by the sports industry.”

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Jul 29, 2021

Carbon dioxide removal revenues worth £2bn a year by 2030

Dominic Ellis
4 min
Engineered greenhouse gas removals will become "a major new infrastructure sector" in the coming decades says the UK's National Infrastructure Commission

Carbon dioxide removal revenues could reach £2bn a year by 2030 in the UK with costs per megatonne totalling up to £400 million, according to the National Infrastructure Commission

Engineered greenhouse gas removals will become "a major new infrastructure sector" in the coming decades - although costs are uncertain given removal technologies are in their infancy - and revenues could match that of the UK’s water sector by 2050. The Commission’s analysis suggests engineered removals technologies need to have capacity to remove five to ten megatonnes of carbon dioxide no later than 2030, and between 40 and 100 megatonnes by 2050.

The Commission states technologies fit into two categories: extracting carbon dioxide directly out of the air; and bioenergy with carbon capture technology – processing biomass to recapture carbon dioxide absorbed as the fuel grew. In both cases, the captured CO2 is then stored permanently out of the atmosphere, typically under the seabed.

The report sets out how the engineered removal and storage of carbon dioxide offers the most realistic way to mitigate the final slice of emissions expected to remain by the 2040s from sources that don’t currently have a decarbonisation solution, like aviation and agriculture. 

It stresses that the potential of these technologies is “not an excuse to delay necessary action elsewhere” and cannot replace efforts to reduce emissions from sectors like road transport or power, where removals would be a more expensive alternative.  

The critical role these technologies will play in meeting climate targets means government must rapidly kick start the sector so that it becomes viable by the 2030s, according to the report, which was commissioned by government in November 2020. 

Early movement by the UK to develop the expertise and capacity in greenhouse gas removal technologies could create a comparative advantage, with the prospect of other countries needing to procure the knowledge and skills the UK develops.

The Commission recommends that government should support the development of this new sector in the short term with policies that drive delivery of these technologies and create demand through obligations on polluting industries, which will over time enable a competitive market to develop. Robust independent regulation must also be put in place from the start to help build public and investor confidence.

While the burden of these costs could be shared by different parts of industries required to pay for removals or in part shared with government, the report acknowledges that, over the longer term, the aim should be to have polluting sectors pay for removals they need to reach carbon targets.

Polluting industries are likely to pass a proportion of the costs onto consumers. While those with bigger household expenditures will pay more than those on lower incomes, the report underlines that government will need to identify ways of protecting vulnerable consumers and to decide where in relevant industry supply chains the costs should fall.

Chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, Sir John Armitt, said taking steps to clean our air is something we’re going to have to get used to, just as we already manage our wastewater and household refuse. 

"While engineered removals will not be everyone’s favourite device in the toolkit, they are there for the hardest jobs. And in the overall project of mitigating our impact on the planet for the sake of generations to come, we need every tool we can find," he said.

“But to get close to having the sector operating where and when we need it to, the government needs to get ahead of the game now. The adaptive approach to market building we recommend will create the best environment for emerging technologies to develop quickly and show their worth, avoiding the need for government to pick winners. We know from the dramatic fall in the cost of renewables that this approach works and we must apply the lessons learned to this novel, but necessary, technology.” 

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and International Energy Agency estimate a global capacity for engineered removals of 2,000 to 16,000 megatonnes of carbon dioxide each year by 2050 will be needed in order to meet global reduction targets. 

Yesterday Summit Carbon Solutions received "a strategic investment" from John Deere to advance a major CCUS project (click here). The project will accelerate decarbonisation efforts across the agriculture industry by enabling the production of low carbon ethanol, resulting in the production of more sustainable food, feed, and fuel. Summit Carbon Solutions has partnered with 31 biorefineries across the Midwest United States to capture and permanently sequester their CO2 emissions.  

Cory Reed, President, Agriculture & Turf Division of John Deere, said: "Carbon neutral ethanol would have a positive impact on the environment and bolster the long-term sustainability of the agriculture industry. The work Summit Carbon Solutions is doing will be critical in delivering on these goals."

McKinsey highlights a number of CCUS methods which can drive CO2 to net zero:

  • Today’s leader: Enhanced oil recovery Among CO2 uses by industry, enhanced oil recovery leads the field. It accounts for around 90 percent of all CO2 usage today
  • Cementing in CO2 for the ages New processes could lock up CO2 permanently in concrete, “storing” CO2 in buildings, sidewalks, or anywhere else concrete is used
  • Carbon neutral fuel for jets Technically, CO2 could be used to create virtually any type of fuel. Through a chemical reaction, CO2 captured from industry can be combined with hydrogen to create synthetic gasoline, jet fuel, and diesel
  • Capturing CO2 from ambient air - anywhere Direct air capture (DAC) could push CO2 emissions into negative territory in a big way
  • The biomass-energy cycle: CO2 neutral or even negative Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage relies on nature to remove CO2 from the atmosphere for use elsewhere

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