Patriots set to put green power into play

Email|Print| Text size + By Carolyn Y. Johnson
Globe Staff / November 12, 2007

FOXBOROUGH - To the fans who brave frigid, blustery nights to cheer for the Patriots at Gillette Stadium, it might feel as if there is enough bone-chilling wind gusting overhead to power a small city.

But today, the Kraft Group will announce that Midwestern wind will fuel the Gillette Stadium lighthouse, the 612 blazing light bulbs shining down on the field, the scoreboards, and more than 40 concession stands that are juiced with enough power during each game to run 2,269 households for a day.

The Patriots signed a four-year deal to buy renewable-energy credits from distant windmills to match all their game-day electricity needs, the latest example of the business community's push to make environmentalism a staple of corporate responsibility.

"Obviously, energy is vital to our game-day operations and we have made substantial efforts to enhance our energy efficiency," the Patriots' president, Jonathan Kraft, said in a statement.

"This not only reduces our carbon footprint, but could help build awareness that other organizations have an opportunity to make a similar choice for the environment."

The electricity flowing from the grid and into Gillette Stadium won't literally come from a special green power plant; instead, the Kraft Group will purchase about 2,400 megawatt-hours of renewable-energy credits over four years, through a deal with electricity provider Constellation NewEnergy of Maryland.

Buying renewable-energy credits, which are sold by power plants fueled by renewable sources such as wind, the sun, or biomass, is a practice encouraged by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The Green Power Partnership program, established in 2001, encourages participants to buy renewable-energy credits to leverage their purchasing power and increase demand for green energy.

"We are very excited about having sports teams come in because not only can they green their own footprint, they can also get the message out to the many people who get to these venues," said Matt Clouse, director of the Green Power Partnership.

Green partners, which range from Fortune 500 companies to government agencies, purchased fewer than 400,000 megawatt-hours in 2001; so far in 2007 they have purchased 10 million megawatt hours of renewable energy. "When you start working with these companies . . . they have such big purchasing power. They can transform the market," Clouse said.

PepsiCo Inc. and Whole Foods Market Inc. buy enough renewable-energy certificates for all their energy use. Staples Inc., headquartered in Framingham, reported that in 2006 it bought renewable-energy certificates for a fifth of its US electricity usage.

The idea of buying certificates to offset pollution has its critics, who say some companies may "greenwash" without making substantive changes.

"People have made the comparison to Catholic indulgences - we'll continue to sin, but look, we'll send this to the Church," said David Chernushenko, author of the book "Greening our Games."

But Chernushenko and other environmental advocates and energy analysts say that buying the renewable-energy credits are a positive step, especially at sports stadiums that are centers of conspicuous consumption.

"Now with almost every game televised, that means brighter lights, . . . all kinds of paraphernalia and marketing merchandise, [and] the catering. The concessions have been fine-tuned right down to every taste. Really, just about all of that is disposable," said Chernushenko, president of sports environmental consulting firm Green and Gold Inc. in Ottawa.

"You put the whole package together - it's a lot of resources and a lot of activity around a mere sports event," he said.

But sports teams with fans who are willingly kept captive for hours at a time in a stadium may represent an even bigger opportunity to educate people.

The Kraft family has been recognized for the innovative environmental design of the stadium, which has its own wastewater treatment plant and abuts the future Patriot Place, a mall in which stores are being built with white rooftops to reduce energy needs.

The Red Sox announced in September that they would partner with the Natural Resources Defense Council to spearhead green initiatives such as recycling soda bottles and plastic cups.

The Philadelphia Eagles have built a solar panel array and buy renewable-energy credits for their power needs.

For the past three years, the National Football League has been taking steps, such as planting trees in host cities, to help offset the carbon footprint of the Super Bowl. The NFL bought 300 megawatt-hours of solar and biomass renewable-energy credits for the most recent Super Bowl.

"More and more businesses are seeing the issues of greenhouse gases as an important statement for them to have a position on, and one of the first things that businesses do is start looking at energy consumption," said Phil Giudice, commissioner of the state's Division of Energy Resources.

"You walk in to most sports venues, and it's an energy hog and people are throwing things all over the place. It's not even possible to recycle in most facilities. . . . It's time for them to lead; they're leading from the field, and now they can lead" off the field, too.

Carolyn Y. Johnson can be reached at

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