GSB News and Notes: Solar Decathlon, Gol! for Solar in Costa Rica, ESPN of Sustainability


Solar power takes the lead role in today’s GSB News and Notes as we feature the seventh annual Solar Decathlon, courtesy of the US Department of Energy, along with the first solar-powered stadium roof in Central America. Finally, we move away from solar for our last story, a terrific piece about what an ESPN of Sustainability would look like. Enjoy!

What is the Solar Decathlon? Is it the 10-sport Olympic track and field event, taking place in a stadium powered by solar? That would be a good guess but it would be WRONG!
The Solar Decathlon is not a sports event at all, but it is so cool (to me at least) that, given its sports event-sounding name, I thought it worthwhile to include.
It is a competition, now in its 7th year, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), in which teams from 15 colleges and universities across the country design and build solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, attractive and generate at least as much energy as they consume.
Like the Olympic event made famous by the likes of Rafer Johnson and Bruce (Caitlyn) Jenner, the Solar Decathlon features 10 contests designed to determine how well the houses perform and how livable and affordable they are. Each contest is worth a maximum of 100 points. The teams are judged in 3 ways:

  • Task completion: Teams complete household tasks such as cooking and doing laundry.
  • Monitored performance: Team houses perform to criteria such as maintaining a comfortable (71°–76°F) indoor temperature range.
  • Jury evaluation:  Jurors award points for features that cannot be objectively measured (aesthetics, design inspiration).

The 10 contests are:

  1. Architecture (Concept and Design Approach, Innovation)
  2. Market Appeal (Buildability, Livability, Marketability)
  3. Engineering (Innovation, Functionality, Efficiency, Reliability)
  4. Communications (Strategy, Online/Social Media, Public Exhibit Materials and Presentation)
  5. Affordability (100 points for construction costs of $250,000 or less)
  6. Comfort Zone (100 points for temperatures between 71°–76°F and relative humidity less than 60%
  7. Appliances (washer/dryer, dishwasher and stove mimic appliance use of an average US home)
  8. Home Life (sharing meals with friends and family, watching movies in a home theater, checking social media, warm shower)
  9. Commuting (100 points for driving an electric car 25 miles or more in two hours or less eight times during week).
  10. Energy Balance (50 points for producing at least as much energy as the house uses for the week; 50 points using less than 175 kWh over the week).

Solar Decathlon

The Solar Decathlon team at Sacramento State University designed this affordable, efficient, and modern house that incorporates traditional architectural elements such as a deck, porch, and gabled roof. To see renderings of some of the other houses that are in this year’s competition, click here. They will be on public view in Irvine, California in early October. (Photo credit: Yale Environment 360)

The Costa Rican national team (the “Ticos”) were the darlings of international soccer on the pitch in the 2014 World Cup, making it to the quarterfinals for the first time in its history before losing to the Netherlands 4-3 on penalty kicks. And, it’s safe to say, the Costa Rica Football Federation is now the darling of international soccer off the pitch and on the roof.
Iconic Estadio Alejandro Morera Soto, aka “La Catedral (the Cathedral) of Costa Rican football”, and home of the Liga Deportiva Alajuelense football club, recently flipped the switch on the first solar system at a soccer stadium in Central America. According to the August 7th issue of Your Renewable News, the system, a joint effort of ABB Group and Enertiva Energia Alternativa of Guatemala, is expected to generate nearly 400,000 kWh annually, which Deportiva Alajuelense estimates will result in “annual electricity savings of approximately $148,000.”
Costa Rica

Estadio Alejandro Morera Soto, home of Costa Rican football club Liga Deportiva Alajuelense, is the first soccer stadium in Central America to have solar panels. (Photo credit: Your Renewable News)

Two things really surprised me about this project, especially since the stadium was built in 1942 and the roof had to be reinforced to accommodate the panels: 1) The solar installation was completed in less than three months and is fully operational today, and 2) The 260 kilowatt (kW) rooftop system meets 100% of the nearly 18,000 seat stadium’s electricity needs, both in normal daily operations and during peak demand of game day.
When I read the title of Raj Sapru’s piece in the July 27 edition of GreenBiz, I thought to myself “what the heck does he mean by that?” After I read Sapru’s excellent story, I thought “I wish I wrote that!”
In ESPN of Sustainability, Sapru opines that “the sustainability media establishment” needs to put forth an “ESPN-like presence that can provide timely data, pointed critiques and lively debate, and represent real-time critical voices in the field…When Coca-Cola (just an example) publishes a sustainability report, the ESPN of Sustainability should provide the next-hour debate on where the company excelled and where it fell short: ‘Did you see page 12?! Another photo of an Indian village woman!'”
This is, to quote the old Guinness TV campaign, BRILLIANT!
Sapru goes on to envision a Worldwide Leader of Sustainability (OK, I came up with that one) that “would be quick to point out inconsistencies between business strategies and stated sustainability goals, and then quick to get a statement from company representatives to explain,” and that uses the “dedication to numbers and exhaustive analyses of sports reporting that the sustainability community can learn from.”

This new ESPN, in which S stands for Sustainability, is a necessary next step, Sapru posits, to move from a status quo in which think tanks, media outlets and thought leaders are afraid to “upset a perceived delicate relationship between (corporate) sustainability champions and their C-suite budgeteers…The first generation of sustainability professionals working inside large companies needed this soft touch because most of them had significant uphill internal battles against dismissive peers and managers.” Of course, it can be said that the actual ESPN has also acted in that afraid to speak truth-to-power manner–just think about how it backed out, allegedly under pressure from the NFL, of the coproduction with PBS, of “League of Denial,” the documentary on the NFL’s stonewalling of evidence linking concussions suffered on the field of play to early onset dementia.

But, I digress.

The ESPN of Sustainability, according to Sapru, WILL speak truth to power, like the best sports (and business and hard news) journalists: “Wouldn’t it be great to see what the ESPN of sustainability says after Company X’s board of directors once again votes down a climate-change resolution? Better yet, how about soccer’s Ray Hudson (perhaps the greatest color commentator ever) providing live narration of GE’s annual share-owners meeting?”

It would be magisterial, indeed.

Please comment below!
Email us: lew@greensportsblog.com
Tweet us: @greensportsblog


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