GreenSportsBlog correspondent Elyssa Emrich takes a break from her “Greening of the Big 10 Sports” series to investigate a more exotic Green-Sports intersection: the French Riviera.
It is probably fair to say the United States lags behind European Union (EU) nations when it comes to sustainable innovation and commitment to climate change-fighting initiatives. France already has a carbon tax on fossil fuels in place. It also bans hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) of natural gas from shale rock formations below the earth’s surface.
France also leans forward on sustainability via the Operation of National Interest or Operation d’Intérêt National (OIN). OIN’s are territorial projects that align with the objectives and strategies which are in the national interest. Those projects are often sustainability related.
One OIN is called Eco-Vallée in the South of France, which includes Nice. Its focus is on eco-friendly, innovative urban development. A centerpiece of Eco-Vallée is Allianz Riviera, a 45,000 seat stadium, designed by Wilmotte & Associés, SA, and built by VINCI. The stadium, which opened its doors last September, is the home of Nice of Ligue 1 (the top French league). It will be one of the host venues for Euro 2016 which, after the World Cup, is arguably the world’s most important international soccer tournament.
Allianz Riviera meets France’s HQE (High Quality Environmental) Standards. HQE is France’s version of LEED certification in the U.S.
And, most importantly, it is expected to be the world’s first-ever energy-positive sports venue.
An energy-positive stadium is one thatgenerates enough energy to fully power itself, plus perhaps even more. How ground-breaking is this? For comparison, Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field, home of the NFL’s Eagles, seen as one of the greenest stadiums in the US, generates about 30% of its power needs from its state-of-the-art rooftop solar array and mini wind turbines. What the Eagles are doing is impressive, indeed. What Allianz Riviera is doing is “incroyable”!
Allianz Riviera has gone all-in on solar PV, which is a much more developed energy source in Europe than is currently the case in the US. France is the continent’s leading manufacturer of solar PV so this commitment is not surprising. The roof of Allianz Riviera is embedded with state-of-the-art, highly efficient solar panels. It will “produce three times more power than required by the Allianz Riviera”, according to Xavier Lortat-Jacob, President of Nice Eco Stadium Authority. To put it another way, the roof, a mini-PV power plant of sorts, generates an amount of electricity that would power 600 homes in that area for a year.
Aerial view of Allianz Riviera stadium near Nice. Opened in September, 2013, it is the world’s first “energy-positive” stadium. (Photo Credit: VINCI)
Geothermal is also a key part of the Allianz Riviera renewable energy mix. The system will both generate electricity and heat and cool the stadium. It draws its energy from the local water table (temperatures underground stay warm year-round). It is a cost effective and natural way to power this large facility, since the source is unlimited and the government provides tax rebates.
Allianz Riviera also sports a natural, wind-driven ventilation and air-conditioning system. Its cooling fans are powered by area wind farms. And the roof collects rainwater, which is stored for use for irrigation of the pitch and also for the toilets.
Finally, the aesthetics of this Energy Positive Stadium are spectacular. The lightweight frame of the stadium is translucent which allows in natural light during the day and offers a lovely view of the surrounding green space, which is more abundant since the parking lot is located underneath the stadium.