Yet another one of the great speakers who will be at Total Energy USA this year is Jonathan Kraft of The Kraft Group. Due to our relationship with the conference, like my interview opportunity with Gordon Gill of Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture, I had the chance to interview Jonathan Kraft this week. Again, it was a really interesting one, and I’m grateful Jonathan gave us such thorough responses to the questions. Check out the full interview:
1. I know The Kraft Group has been making a clear move towards clean energy, incorporating clean energy into some big projects. I’m curious (and have my own hunch), what prompted the company to do so?
As a group of businesses that have a high public profile through our sports entities and having experienced how we can make an impact in the community through our charitable efforts, we have applied that same philosophy with our green initiatives. By trying to lead in that area, we hope it encourages our fans and our partners to do the same.
Our highest profile business is sports, but our largest business area is paper product and packaging manufacturing, an industry that gave us significant early exposure to green initiatives and technology. In 1995, one of our companies, Rand-Whitney Containerboard, built the world’s first paper mill to use 100 percent recycled water in its operation. We also use 100 percent post consumer waste in the production of linerboard, which is then used in our packaging manufacturing. In 2004, we built a natural-gas fired cogeneration plant that provides electricity and steam to the mill. Cogeneration, combined with other heat recovery and conservation initiatives, allows us to run a power plant that is over 80 percent efficient. Combined with state of the art pollution controls – its carbon footprint is 40% lower than conventional systems. We are currently looking at other opportunities as well – like cogenerating energy at our box-making plant in Worcester and converting carbon in the mill’s wastewater into a biogas. Rand-Whitney Recycling, another one of our companies, is a market leader in recovering and re-sourcing materials that would otherwise end up in landfills.
We had all of that knowledge from our business experience when we set out to build Gillette Stadium. We privately financed the project and had complete control, which gave us the opportunity to incorporate long-term sustainability and energy efficiency into the design. This was 1999-2002, before it was automatically considered good business among sports venue owners and managers, but we knew that if we maintained that focus we would realize cost efficiencies in the long term. We incorporated features like a wastewater reuse system that saves 11 million gallons of water annually, and a lighting efficiency system. We have also pursued some projects simply because we thought they were the right thing to do. We committed significant resources to “daylighting” a stretch of the Neponset River on our property that had been buried in a culvert 50 years, then did 6,000 native plantings and created a protected river corridor. We have carried all of these efforts forward through our renewable power efforts at Patriot Place.
2. I’m also curious why specific technologies were chosen over others in some of your landmark projects. In particular, a 1.1 MW solar canopy project at Gillette Stadium and Patriot Place that covers about 60% of Patriot Place’s electricity needs, and another big (0.5 MW) solar PV project at Patriot Place.
An NFL stadium is unique in that it consumes relatively little energy most of the time, and then on 15-25 dates each year, when you have a full stadium event like a football game or a concert, it requires a huge energy load. Other than renewable energy credits, which we have used to offset in the past, there are limited opportunities at an NFL stadium to truly implement renewable in a practical way. When we constructed Patriot Place, it created opportunities to implement technologies that would have a material impact on our carbon footprint. Fortunately we have had partners like NRG who are creative and forward-thinking in their approach to practical applications of renewable energy. The solar canopy project serves multiple goals. In addition to generating solar power, it provides shade and weather cover for our guests and promotes clean energy technology to the hundreds of thousands of people who walk through Patriot Place each year. It has been a great partnership with NRG that we hope to build on.
3. Also, I read about a wind turbine going in at Patriot Place last December, but I haven’t heard anything about that since then. Is that still on the table, or was it nixed due to zoning laws or some other matter?
We have been studying wind for a long time and are excited about the possibilities. Even in the time that we have gotten serious about it the technology has advanced significantly. We are lucky to have a site that has the elevation and wind profile to support a high-output turbine, but we want to be smart in how we integrate it into our long-term development plans.
4. Other cool green initiatives I notice at Patriot Place are 700,000 square feet of white roofs and Magink video technology that you say uses a third of the energy of LEDs! How have those been performing for you? Have you seen a noticeable drop in energy use from the white roofs, and is that Magink video technology (which I’ve never heard of) really that much more efficient than LEDs (which we love here on CleanTechnica, due to their great efficiency)?
The white roofs were part of Patriot Place’s original design to reduce energy consumption from heating and air conditioning. It is one aspect of an overall energy management system. Being our newest large-scale project, Patriot Place is certainly the most energy efficient and of course we enjoy costs savings as a result. Every time there is a new project, there are new opportunities. When we constructed The Hall at Patriot Place presented by Raytheon, which houses the Patriots Hall of Fame and is a high-tech interactive experience for Patriots fans, we wanted to give each of our Patriots Hall of Famers a larger than life digital display. Our goal was to construct 30-foot high, indoor, double-sided interactive video pylons that would be visible from both inside the building and from the plaza outside. It was a tall order, but we found an Israeli company that was creating digital ink technology that displays video but emits no light or heat. It is reflective, so the stronger the natural light the brighter the display, which was unheard of at the time for video displays. It is a great example of seeking out the right technology to tackle a particular challenge, and in this case it was also extremely energy efficient, which is obviously something we care about. This was 2008, so I’m not sure how the technology compares — from an energy efficiency standpoint — to today’s LED technology, which we also love. We currently have the largest outdoor HD LED video board in an NFL stadium.
I'm the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular clean energy website in the world, and Planetsave, a leading green and science news site. I've been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and I've been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, bicycling, and wind energy for the past few years. You can also find my work on Scientific American, Reuters, Think Progress, GE's ecomagination site, several sites in the Important Media network, & many other places. To connect on some of your favorite social networks, go to zacharyshahan.com or click on some of the links below.