Take Me Out to the Solar Ballgame

With new solar and wind installations at two of its ballparks, Major League Baseball opens the 2012 season showing America the national pastime is still at the vanguard of social and technological change.

Baseball was the first sport to play under lights, break the color line, pioneer live television broadcasts, end restrictive player-management relations, and lead the way into Latin America and Asia. Now it is swinging for the fences by driving the shift toward distributed renewables.

In the last few years, the Boston Red Sox, San Francisco Giants, Kansas City Royals and Cleveland Indians installed photovoltaic (PV) solar systems at their ballparks. This year, the Seattle Mariners are joining the movement and the Indians are advancing the cause by adding a cutting-edge small wind turbine complex.

The Minnesota Twins, the Royals and the Mariners are also leading a move to smarter, greener ballpark operations by turning to more efficient lighting and heating and cooling systems and helping fans recycle the wrappings and containers of hotdogs, peanuts and other ballpark treats.

The Mariners, who opened their season by splitting a two-game series against the Oakland Athletics in Tokyo March 28-29, have just installed a 32.76-kilowatt PV system expected to score big with 40,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity per year for Safeco Field.

The Indians will open April 5 against the Toronto Blue Jays at home where an experimental helical structure with four small wind turbines attached to it has been built atop one of Progressive Field’s towers to knock home 25,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity per year for the stadium.

The 168 Panasonic HIT Double solar panels, explained Panasonic communications manager Aaron Fowles, were as many as would fit atop Safeco Field’s parking garage elevator canopy and the skybridge leading there. They are expected to provide 10 percent to 30 percent of the electricity used for lighting, elevator operations and other services in the parking garage, Fowles added.

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