Sport’s 20,000 MWh goal — ACF throws down the solar gauntlet


A detailed new study carried out by UNSW’s School of Photovoltaic & Renewable Energy Engineering (SPREE) on behalf of the Australian Conservation Foundation, finds that solar installed across the rooftops of major sports stadiums and sporting association head offices could generate around 20,000 megawatt hours of clean energy annually.

If cricket went in to bat for it, AFL tackled it and soccer teamed up, the combined effect would be to mitigate 310,000 tonnes of carbon emissions over two decades, while the sports themselves could save a combined total of $3.7 million each year.

“Sports in Australia face a growing threat from climate change,” said Australian Conservation Foundation Campaigns (ACF) Director Paul Sinclair when he announced this new collective push last week.

He said that global warming, driven primarily by burning fossil fuels such as coal and gas, “is drying out sports grounds, disrupting events and increasing health risks for players.”

At the peak of the devastating 2019-2020 fire season, Sydney FC’s Alexander Baumjohann likened playing football in Australia to “smoking 50 cigarettes a day”.

A clean energy collective

The ACF report is part of a trend to identify the benefits that can accumulate when whole industries or associations take up the challenge of decarbonising. Last week it was Federally controlled airports; now, as the soccer and AFL seasons hit their stride, sport is coming under the sun’s influence.

Some of the biggest trophies in the race to be 100% powered by clean energy by 2030 are calculated to be: AFL’s Metricon Stadium in Carrara, home of the Gold Coast Suns, which SPREE calculates has 1.6 Megawatts of clean energy potential; The Sydney Cricket Ground with space for 1 MW of generation; and the Darwin headquarters of Football NT which could soon kick off under lights powered by 406 kilowatts of solar PV.

A feature in The Canberra Times on the weekend saw Weston Creek Tennis Club claiming an early victory and a “warm fuzzy feeling” from its installation of 25 solar panels on its clubhouse, given a $12,000 Federal Government grant in 2020.

The Club followed best practice, reported the Times, by first improving its energy efficiency with the installation of LED lights to replace halogen globes in its light towers.

“From the biggest stadium to the smallest clubrooms …” Sinclair urged Australian sports to work together.

An additional high-level assessment of the solar potential of regional and community clubs across AFL, cricket and soccer alone came up with some 400 square metres of viable but as yet unused roof space on club facilities.

ACF matches the solar potential to each football/soccer headquarters.

Image: Australian Conservation Foundation

The report, published in three parts to really hone in on the three major sports, goes into satisfying detail, listing the potential of individual club headquarters, and providing images of the most solar-suitable club buildings, with aerial shots of panels superimposed on key sites offering direct inspiration.

Northern NSW Football’s headquarters, Lake Macquarie Regional Football Facility, looks great under solar arrays!

Image: Australian Conservation Foundation

Collingwood footballer Jordan Roughead gives his endorsement to ACF’s Sports going solar challenge, saying, “If we can work as a team towards a common goal to protect our climate and our environment, our impact will be significant.”

ACF is also moving the goalposts to favour a big win, having contracted the Australian Energy Foundation to provide 75 free energy coaching sessions to sports clubs, which will help them work out a business case for solar installation. Register interest here!


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