Guest blog by Steve Jennings, Commercial & Industrial Director at Anesco.

Sustainability is a hot topic in the world of sport right now, with everyone from global sporting bodies to national stadiums, touring events and those at a club level, assessing their options. The World Cup is a fantastic example, with renewable technologies and environmentally-friendly working practices, becoming more and more prominent with every tournament that takes place.

  • Brazil 2014 was played at numerous stadiums powered by solar panels – a first for the competition.
  • Russia 2018 the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow passed the BREEAM international certificate, which is awarded to sustainable buildings. It incorporates energy conservation measures, including LED lighting and water-saving technology.
  • Qatar 2022 will include the world’s first moveable and reusable FIFA World Cup stadium and across the whole portfolio of new stadiums, the most environmentally friendly practices and materials are being used.

At a domestic level, the good news is energy efficiency measures and renewable technologies are not just reserved for top clubs and those with deep pockets. There are now many opportunities for all types and sizes of stadia and other sporting venues. Taking steps in this area can have a positive impact, not just on the carbon footprint but crucially, on the bottom line. Improving sustainability and energy management practices can also improve finances, potentially generating significant long-term energy savings and even creating additional revenue streams.

When it comes to football, some clubs are already well ahead of the field:

  • Arsenal, UK

In August 2017, Arsenal become the first Premier League club to be 100% sustainable in its energy consumption. By sourcing all its energy from renewable sources, the club is saving a reported 2.32 million kg of carbon dioxide annually.

  • Forest Green Rovers, UK

The New Lawn Stadium boasts the world’s first organic pitch. The site also generates renewable energy from 100 solar panels and rain water is harvested and recycled. Even the pitch is cut by a solar-powered robotic mower and a 100 percent vegan menu is on offer on match day menu. And they’re not finished yet, with plans for a new Eco stadium in the pipeline.

  • Morro da Mineira, Brazil

Built in 2014, the stadium’s people-powered pitch uses over 200 underground kinetic tiles that convert players’ movements into energy used to power lighting.

  • Amsterdam Arena, Holland

Amsterdam Arena is the biggest stadium in Holland and home to the Dutch national team. It is also carbon neutral, thanks to 4,200 roof top solar panels, wind turbines placed around the stadium, rain water harvesting and cooling courtesy of cold water from a nearby lake. The stadium is also the world’s first to feature 100 percent renewable seating.

  • Signal Iduna Park, Germany

This Bundesliga side are setting a great example when it comes to sustainability. The stadium, headquarters and training complex are all powered completely by green energy.


Key renewable measures for sports venues

But it’s not just football – racecourses, tennis clubs and even touring events, such as the Tour de France, are all making a commitment to greener, more sustainable operations.

So, if you’re a sporting venue, what are the options?

LED lighting

Lighting costs can often form a considerable proportion of any stadium’s energy expenditure. It is also one area where valuable quick-wins can be made.

LEDs are an efficient form of lighting that consume around 80 per cent of the electricity used by traditional lighting technology, such as incandescent lamps. By switching to LEDs – whether through a retrofit, or implementing a whole new lighting scheme – the savings on energy costs can be substantial.

This is especially true if the use of LEDs is combined with a smart lighting control system. This type of system ensures that a high-quality lighting experience is provided, which is intuitive to the needs of both staff and visitors. It can also reduce any wasted energy, for example by turning off lighting when an area is not in use.

 Solar PV

Solar is a tried and tested technology that continues to be a viable option for sporting venues and businesses alike. Commercial solar panels work by converting sunlight into electricity that can be used on site. This reduces the amount of power that needs to be purchased from the grid and will improve the stadium’s carbon footprint.

But that’s not the only way stadiums can benefit. Solar installations completed before March 2019, may also generate an additional long-term revenue stream, via the Government’s feed in tariffs. The incentive scheme makes payments for energy generated by a renewable source that is fed back into the grid. Any solar installations that qualify, will continue to receive these payments for 20 years.

The other key benefits of solar panels include that they are relatively low cost, easy to fit, quiet, unobtrusive and can make the optimal use of any suitable space. Usually, in the case of sports stadiums, this may be a roof top or a large unused area of the ground.

Thanks to advances in energy storage technology (see next point) the opportunity presented by solar is now even greater.

Energy storage

One technology that is becoming well established in the UK, is energy storage. Such a system can store the energy being generated by a renewable power source, such as a roof top solar system, releasing the energy when it is required. This ensures the maximum benefit of any renewable technology is being achieved.

Installing an energy storage unit can also help venues optimise their savings. For example, it can provide flexibility, allowing electricity to be purchased from the grid at off-peak times, when it’s cheaper, and selling energy back to the grid when prices are at a premium.

It can open the door to other additional revenue streams too. For example, if it is used to support the national grid, when it’s not required by the venue itself.

Another advantage for sports grounds is that storage offers energy security. It can provide a reliable, back-up energy supply, offering a far more environmentally-friendly alternative to traditional diesel or gas engines.

 Other measures

Other measures that are worth a mention here are solar thermal, and ground and air source heat pumps. They work by extracting heat that is naturally available. Using these types of systems can help reduce heating cost, often another area of major expense.

Voltage optimisation is another strategy to consider. It may not be as flashy or visually impactful as solar panels, but can make a big difference. In a nutshell, it aids energy management by lowering the incoming electrical voltage to the level required by on-site equipment.


3 steps to sustainability

When it comes to going green, it is important to take a holistic view of energy use, and to consider the combination of technologies and upgrades that could be made, to achieve the greatest potential benefit. That’s why it’s vital that you seek the advice of an expert team, such as the one we have here at Anesco, who are experienced in all types of renewable technologies, and how best to apply them. They will also be able to advise you on different funding routes – including fully funded options that don’t require any upfront capital – as well as government schemes and incentives, payback periods, ongoing maintenance packages and everything else you need to consider.

It all starts with having a clear understanding of where energy is currently being used, before looking for areas where improvements could be made.

The three steps to sports venue sustainability, can be summed up as:

  1. Improve energy efficiency by reducing any waste
  2. Look to generate renewable energy on site, to reduce the amount of power that needs to be purchased from the grid
  3. Make a public commitment to environmentally-friendly working practices and encourage positive behavioural change amongst both staff and visitors


Find out more

Anesco works with customers big and small to manage the funding (including fully funded models), design, development, operation and maintenance of renewable energy and energy efficiency projects.

For more information, or for an informal chat about your sports venue and its green ambitions, please call the team at Anesco on 0845 894 44 44.


You may also be interested in: