How Renewable Energy Powered the Super Bowl

As the host for the 58th annual Super Bowl, held on Sunday, February 11, 2024, Allegiant Stadium employed these sustainable energy practices to accommodate over 65,000 fans, reporters, staff members, and athletes in the 1.8 million square-foot building.

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By Jocelyn Yu

Solar energy is one of the most common forms of renewable energy used today. It’s involved in powering almost everything from small towns and individual households to huge corporations like Target and Walmart, and it’s only becoming more popular as a clean power alternative to the more traditional practices that cause heavy pollution. Recently, solar energy has gained national publicity from this year’s Super Bowl. To fuel the event, the host stadium, Allegiant Stadium, implemented a solar-based power system alongside efficient air handling units and an energy-saving light control system.

Solar panels were instrumental in meeting the Super Bowl’s hefty energy demands this year. Photovoltaic (PV) cells, the technology that harness the sun’s energy in solar panels, are relatively low cost compared to other electricity sources like fossil fuels. PV cells are arranged into solar panels—large, rectangular sheets made from a metal frame and glass coverings. Each PV cell is made of a semiconductor wafer, which consists of two layers of silicon with opposite electrical charges. This gives the cell an internal electrical field, which is the force that’s created when electrons repel each other. Wavelengths of sunlight knock electrons loose from silicon atoms within the semiconductor wafer, which are caught in the electrical field of the PV cell and generate a direct current since the electrons only move in one direction. The direct current is channeled through a solar inverter, which turns it into an alternating current—where electrons can move in both directions—that can be used to power people’s homes. Since each electron is delivered continuously, direct currents produce higher voltage electricity than most households need. Alternating currents allow some electrons to travel backward, slowing electron delivery and making the alternating current more suitable for powering everyday household appliances.

Solar power is usually supplied to power grids through solar farms, which are regions occupied by a large number of PV solar panels. Land with abundant sun exposure, low cloud coverage, and few inches of rainfall annually is optimal for a solar farm to maximize energy yield, which is why many are located near the equator. Solar farms are intended to fuel large-scale industrial and commercial practices. One of the largest solar farms in the world is the Bhadla Solar Park in India, where solar panels cover approximately 14,000 acres of land and can sustain over 1.3 million homes. The energy that solar farms generate is sent directly to the power grid, where it’s distributed to houses, buildings, and other parts of city infrastructure. 

The Arrow Canyon Solar Project (ACSP), located in the Arizona Mojave Desert and fully operational as of 2023, is one of the many renewable energy sites in the United States. It’s run by the North American branch of the French company, Electricité de France (EDF). The farm generates a maximum of 275 megawatts of power during the day and can store at most 75 megawatts to be preserved for five hours at night or in the event of cloudy or rainy weather. To put this into perspective, the average utility-scale solar farm produces between one and five megawatts of power. One megawatt of electricity alone can toast 89,000 pieces of bread, power two refrigerators for a full year, and power the average U.S. household for a little over a month. A large power plant like ACSP, in contrast, produces enough electricity to sustain up to 76,000 Nevada homes. ACSP also incorporates bifacial solar panels where sunlight can be absorbed from both the front and back; PV cells are located on both sides of the metal frame, which increases energy output by 10 percent to 20 percent compared to monofacial solar panels. Many companies choose to use monofacial panels because they’re cheaper to build and install and are more flexible and lightweight. However, they only absorb light on one surface; a second side can maximize efficiency in the long term, which was a reason why ACSP was involved in fueling this year’s Super Bowl. 

In 2019, EDF Renewables North America signed a Power Purchase Agreement with Nevada (NV) Energy, a public utilities company for Nevada. The agreement allows the state to use ACSP as a power source. Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, the most recent venue for the Super Bowl, has also been involved with NV Energy as a long-term customer since 2019. In 2023, Allegiant Stadium entered a 25-year partnership with NV Energy to reach a goal of 100 percent Carbon Pollution Free Electricity (CFE) in hopes of reducing electricity costs and mitigating the building’s environmental impact. Achieving 100 percent CFE means that all electricity is produced by a process that doesn’t emit any carbon, such as solar energy. Other energy sources that don’t emit carbon include wind energy, hydroelectric energy (water), nuclear energy, and more. These energy alternatives can be harnessed without fueled machinery—instead with natural chemical and environmental processes—which is what makes them so environmentally friendly. In honor of their mission, the stadium was awarded the LEED Gold certification in July 2023, which labels the facility as a Leader in Energy and Environmental Design and makes it one of seven total stadiums in the U.S. that hold the title.

As the host for the 58th annual Super Bowl, held on Sunday, February 11, 2024, Allegiant Stadium employed the use of solar energy and other sustainable practices to accommodate over 65,000 fans, reporters, staff members, and athletes in the 1.8 million square-foot building. The stadium features an ethylene tetrafluoroethylene roof, which is a material that lets natural daylight in and wards off extreme heat. This saves energy when it comes to running cooling systems and air conditioning within the stadium. Allegiant Stadium also uses LED lights, which save about 90 percent of the energy used by typical incandescent light bulbs. Additionally, the stadium’s automated systems shut off electric appliances when they’re not being used, which regulates electricity that might otherwise be wasted. However, the use of solar power from the ASCP was the most significant part of the stadium’s energy-efficient role in the Super Bowl. 

 The company NZero was responsible for recording and reporting electricity use during the Super Bowl. NZero used a carefully crafted carbon data platform to deliver hourly reports on the stadium’s power output. Electricity was measured in megawatt hours, or how many megawatts of electricity were continuously passed through the stadium’s electricity meters per hour. Most standard electricity meters are located on-site and function like windmills. The electric current provides the force that rotates small metal gears inside the meter, and numerical values located on the outside of the meter indicate how many rotations take place. According to Business Insider and CBS News, 10 of the 28 megawatt hours of power that NZero reported from the Super Bowl this year came from ACSP, with the rest coming from alternative renewable energy sources.

The Super Bowl is one of the most highly anticipated and popular events in the United States every year. Naturally, it is still part of an energy spike as families travel to and from the game, prepare large meals, and keep the TV on for hours late into the evening. However, this year’s focus on sustainability was a step in the right direction. The success of renewable energy in a large event like the Super Bowl encourages faith in the reliability of environmentally friendly power sources. It also brings attention to energy usage in sports stadiums, where conservation is often not the top priority. This year’s setup has the potential to bring about a trend towards greener energy for similar events in the future and prompts guests to think about their own carbon footprints when they observe systems that are in place to reduce pollution. Garnering support for sustainable energy practices from industry leaders models greater energy efficiency in commercial spheres and is crucial to reducing harmful environmental effects from climate change and global warming.