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
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.
First, 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.
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.
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% more solar panels to power the same building. See what we’re getting at here?
Solar costs are about scale. So if the stadium needed to supply 35% more energy, the increased number of solar panels and the costs associated with them would have been 35% higher too.
How this Helps You:
When you consider converting your energy systems to solar power, consider also upgrading your energy efficiency at the same time. If you can build out savings of 10%, 20%, or even 30%, you solar costs drop by some pretty sizable amounts.
And LED lighting is something you should consider as part of that goal if you have a large indoor facility like a warehouse or a poultry farm.
Why Tell the Golden 1 Center Story
Yes, the Sacramento Kings play all the way across the country from you and us. But just look at that picture. They’ve since completed the installation, and the building opened at the start of the 2016 NBA season. The whole stadium cost over a billion dollars.
But the long term cost savings for the solar installation will be in the millions of dollars once the system has paid for itself. And the long term energy savings will have a real effect on the climate. All it took was a little vision and foresight, and the commitment to follow through.
So we tell this story simply to show you it can be done. It’s a matter of scale. They had to spend more because they needed more. But the payoff point happens regardless of the size of the solar array. And once you pass that point, your cash savings pile up like foul shots.
Costs have dropped by more than half in just 8 years. With energy efficiency improvements, tax credits, purchase agreements, and other cost savings measures, you can transform your energy outlook in ways that you’ll look back on in 20 years, just like the city of Sacramento will look back on this arena. You’ll look back and be satisfied with your foresight and wise decision-making as you calculate the savings your solar panels have produced.
You don’t always get it right. None of us do. But this is one you can get right today like never before.
If you have more questions about solar power, check out this article for 9 solar power questions you should ask before buying.
Or, if you live in the SE United States, give us a call today and we’ll be happy to answer your questions or come to your farm, home, or business and give you a solar assessment.