What the Sacramento Kings’ New Golden 1 Center Shows Is Possible with Solar Energy

Plus: 2 Energy Secrets They Used to Slash Their Installation Costs

The Golden 1 Center basketball arena opens this year, powered completely by solar energy

Big solar energy projects like the new Golden 1 Center in Sacramento get a lot of attention in the media, but their greatest value is in the lessons they reveal for the smaller business, farm, and residence owners who are thinking about converting to solar power.

Here’s a quick 3-point analysis of the new stadium and its dual-source solar array, including two ways they cut their solar costs by an additional 35% on top of all the other tax and purchase agreement savings.

1. The Golden 1 Center Solar Array

The Golden 1 Center is not the only stadium to go solar, as you’ll see in a bit. But it is certainly one of the most advanced. Here’s a rundown of some basic facts:

  • Stadium is 100% powered by solar energy
  • 2 MegaWatt rooftop array powers 15% of stadium’s energy needs
  • 11 MW ground solar array powers the remaining 85% from 40 miles away
  • Rooftop array has 3300 solar panels
  • Removes 2000 tons of greenhouse gases – each year. This is equivalent to 4 million vehicle miles.

How this Helps You:

Solar is all about scale. When you read about solar, you hear a lot of terms and numbers and units thrown around that have very little meaning if you have no experience with solar energy.

A Megawatt (MW) is 1000 kilowatts. In total, they needed 12.2 MW to power their stadium. A typical home needs only 10 kW or less. A small business might be from 20 to 80 kW. A mid-size or large farm could need a few hundred.

As for the number of panels, 3300 of them provide the 1.2 MW of energy from the roof. So for a smaller installation, you’ll need something in the range of a few dozen to a couple hundred.

So as you think about your own solar energy capacity, that should help you scale down to the less grandiose level you’d be dealing with.

2. How They Paid For It

Every solar deal is a little different, and each state has their own set of laws for what’s allowed. But the Golden 1 Center utilized a couple tools that you can also access in Georgia and South Carolina.

Golden 1 Center gets 85% of its solar power from this ground array 40 miles awayFirst, they have a purchase agreement with the solar company for ten years for the rooftop portion. This means Solar Power owns their array the first ten years, and probably gets to profit from the energy produced. We don’t have the agreement so we don’t know the specific details.

But a purchase agreement is a way to install solar panels without having to pay all the upfront costs. You pay a fixed monthly amount to the company that owns and operates them for an agreed-upon length of time.

Second, for the 11 MW ground array 40 miles away (see photo), they utilized SolarShares, which is a California net-metering type of program. They have a 20 year agreement with the Sacramento utility.

This means they pay a set monthly bill, but their usage and the amount of energy produced by the solar array can offset a portion of their bill.

How this Helps You:

Net metering is available in South Carolina, and it varies by district in Georgia. Click here to see a few Georgia utilities that allow this type of power sharing agreement. (See items 3 – 9 on that page). If you’re not sure, just call your power company and find out if they allow net metering.

Also, most solar companies have some kind of purchase agreement option, including Coastal Solar. If you want the benefits of solar power but don’t want the upfront costs, a purchase agreement might be the perfect option for you.

3. Two Energy Secrets That Saved Millions for the Kings’ New Arena

Secret #1: Prices are Falling – A LOT

This first one isn’t so much a secret as a reality. But costs for solar installations have plummeted. Perhaps you’ve heard this a few times, but you’ve wondered how much they’ve really dropped.

A similar project as the Golden 1 Center was done back in 2008 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. They used about the same number of panels on their roof (makes sense… they’re both basketball stadiums).

That project in 2008 cost $6 million. This similar-sized project in Sacramento – 8 years later – cost much less.

So in case you’ve wondered, the secret is out. When people say solar prices have fallen, they aren’t joking. With the tax incentives now available (but set to expire in a few years), there has never been a better time to switch to solar and save a ton of money on your long-term energy bills.

Secret #2: Energy Efficiency Is for Real

It’s one thing to set a goal of powering your home, farm, or business 100% with solar energy. But to do this, you don’t necessarily need to replace all your current energy usage. With other efficiency improvements, you can reduce the need as well. And with solar panels, a reduced need translates directly to a reduced cost.

The Golden 1 Center innovated in all sorts of ways to reduce their energy usage, but there are two primary ways they accomplished this.

First, they abandoned the standard approach to air conditioning that other stadiums use. Most stadiums put air conditioning vents high up in the roof. Probably because of the noise. But this means the cool air coming down has to clash with the hot air rising from all the cheering fans and sweating players. A good portion of that cool air (all of which has been generated with energy they have to pay for) gets wasted as it combats the rising hot air.

Solar panels being installed on the roof of Golden 1 Center

The Golden 1 Center put air conditioning vents under the seats – where the people will actually feel them! (See photo). These blow quieter since they’re smaller and right next to the people who benefit from the cool air. But they need far less energy to operate.

Second, the stadium uses LED lighting. Though these again cost more up front than traditional bulbs, they use a tiny fraction of the energy and they last five to ten times as long. LED lights pay for themselves in just a couple years and translate to tons of energy savings – in both cost and in usage.

See this article to see how LED compares with Solar energy.

Combine the LED lights, the under-the-seat HVAC system, and a few other innovations, and the Kings’ new stadium uses 35% less energy than it otherwise would have. 35% less!

In other words, had they used traditional lighting and a ceiling HVAC system, they would have needed 35% mo