If you hear the sound of heads exploding across the US this Sunday evening, that could be a sign that heads really are exploding. The Las Vegas Raiders will showcase Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas as a paragon of renewable energy virtue to Super Bowl audiences everywhere when the 49ers and the Chiefs come to town, and they are not shy about laying it on thick.
Renewable Energy & The Sports Connection
The idea of showcasing renewable energy to legions of US sports fans is not a new idea. Back in 2010, for example, CleanTechnica covered the solar-powered Pocono Raceway and the futuristic (though short lived) wind turbines deployed by the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field.
Much has happened since then, including a wacky electric vehicle ad placed by General Motors for Super Bowl audiences in 2021 and many other Super Bowl electric vehicle ads in the past few years (here are some more examples from hockey and baseball as well).
The sharp political divide between renewable energy advocates and foes is also not a new thing. However, over the past couple of years, something new has bubbled up. Opponents of renewable energy in public office have coalesced around a strategy that involves taking legislative action against ESG (environment, social, governance) investing and business guidelines, with a particular focus on obstructing renewable energy investment.
All of this is by way of saying that when America’s #1 sport brings out the pom-poms for renewable energy, that’s a political statement as well as a publicity stunt.
The Super Bowl Goes Carbon-Free
For the big game on Sunday, the Raiders and Allegiant Stadium are not introducing any extraordinary new technology breakthroughs to make a point about clean power. Instead, they are relying on here-and-now technologies and systems to demonstrate that removing excess carbon emissions from the global economy is do-able, that it can be done rapidly, and that it does not involve canceling their favorite sport.
The effort is being coordinated by the firm NZero, which describes itself as a”real-time data and decarbonization platform for sustainability leaders.”
Without using “ESG” in a sentence, NZero has something to say about the connection between running a business and taking action to help keep the global environment healthy and life-sustaining.
“Together, they are helping to create a new era of sustainability in sports—one where sustainability and business practices are not mutually exclusive,” NZero explains, referring to its work with the Raiders and Allegiant.
As described by NZero, the highlight of the effort is a 25-year carbon free power purchase agreement with NV Energy. Launched in 2023, the agreement covers the Raiders’ administrative offices and practice facility as well as the stadium itself.
That “carbon free” designation covers a lot of ground, depending on who’s talking. However, NZero was quite specific in a press release announcing the energy profile of the Superbowl, which it shared on Friday.
“For the first time in history, football’s biggest game will be powered by 100% renewable, carbon-free energy (CFE), independently verified by real-time data and decarbonization platform NZero,” the company enthused.
“Through a series of partnerships, policies and programs designed to minimize their environmental footprint, the Las Vegas Raiders have been able to convert Allegiant Stadium, the host of this year’s Big Game, to 100% CFE,” Allegiant added.
Although the stadium will run through an estimated 28 megawatt-hours of electricity to stage Super Bowl LVIII, none of those hours will involve carbon emissions from power plants. Anyone who wonders if that is actually true can go see NZero.
Cutting Carbon Quickly
NZero has also tracked the Raiders’ carbon-cutting track record before and after the carbon free agreement with NV Energy. The team was making some progress before the agreement, though somewhat slowly. The football organization reduced their Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions together by 15% in 2022, according to NZero.
The Scopes refer to carbon emissions directly controlled by an organization or related to its activities. The energy resources consumed by an organization fall into the Scope 2 slot.
NZero found that implementing the carbon free agreement with NEV Energy propelled the overall drop in carbon emissions up to 30% for 2023. For the coming year, NZero anticipates that the Raiders will reduce their carbon emissions by an impressive 68% percent, even without a change in Scope 1 and 2 emissions.
In a press statement, Las Vegas Raiders President Sandra Douglass Morgan emphasized the role of data in tracking and reducing carbon emissions, and the importance of enlisting partners to achieve progress on all three Scopes.
“This achievement marks a new era for sustainability in sports, but it would not be possible without a firm handle on our emissions and energy data alongside a decarbonization roadmap,” she said.
“Allegiant and our team are making a remarkable step forward, but sustainability is a team sport and has required the commitment and support of our partners, fans and the local community,” she emphasized.
What About All The Private Jets?
Yes, what about them. For all the attention focused on greenhouse gas emissions related to aviation, the last time the US Environmental Protection Agency took a deep dive into the topic, all forms of transportation together accounted for 28% of greenhouse gas emissions in the US, and aircraft accounted for just 9% of the 28%.
“The largest sources of transportation greenhouse gas emissions in 2021 were light-duty trucks, which include sport utility vehicles, pickup trucks, and minivans (37%),” the EPA noted. Other leading sources of transportation emissions were heavy-duty trucks at 23% and passenger cars at 21%.
The EPA also noted that emissions from cars and light-duty trucks together skyrocketed 45% in the 30 or so years from 1990 to 2021. The EPA cited population growth, economic growth, urban sprawl, and low fuel prices as contributing factors. Overall fuel economy among new vehicles sold also decreased after 1990, due to the increasing popularity of light-duty trucks.
So much for the big picture. On a per-mile basis, of course, the emissions of a typical small jet far outweigh anything an individual pickup truck can muster, or even a convoy of pickup trucks.
However, the whole issue could shortly become moot. Alternative aviation fuels are emerging as a near-term solution, and electric aircraft are also set to make an appearance in the coming years (see more CleanTechnica electric aircraft coverage here).
As for renewable energy, the Raiders are fortunate to have ample resources at hand. The state’s available wind resources are considered inconsistent and somewhat less than optimal, but the state ranks an impressive #6 for installed solar capacity in the state-by-state rankings tracked by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), and it has more than two dozen geothermal power plants under its belt as well.
For the record, the 49ers also make their home in a leading clean power-producing state, that being California.
The Kansas City Chiefs also have the potential to showcase renewable energy, though their home state of Missouri has some work to do. The Chiefs’ home turf is Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri (not Kansas City, Kansas).
Considering the anti-ESG posture of its leading public office holders, it’s no surprise to see Missouri holding down the lowly #36 slot in SEIA’s solar rankings. However, its wind power profile weighs in at a fairly respectable #18, according to the US Energy Information Agency.
Last September, the executive director of the clean power organization Renew Missouri, James Owen, published an op-ed in which he criticized a local utility for recently dialing down its decarbonization commitments.
All is not lost, though. Owen pointed out that the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act is expected to attract new investment upwards of $6.6 billion in large-scale clean power and energy storage projects to Missouri over the next six years. The state’s 40 rural electric cooperatives could step in if the big energy companies drag their feet.
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Photo (cropped): Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas will operate on 100% renewable energy for Super Bowl LVIII on Sunday night.
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