f you’ve been watching the FIFA World Cup games in Brazil you may have noticed prominently displayed PV solar panels on stadium roofs and in parking lots. Solar energy will play an important role in the World Cup games as the majority of stadiums are powered by this clean energy source. According to Joseph F. Blatter, President of FIFA, “Large-scale solar projects like this one are contributing to increasing the positive impact of the FIFA World Cup on society and the environment.”
Four of Brazil’s World Cup stadiums have a combined 5.4 MW of solar energy capacity and each stadium will utilize the power they generate differently. For example, 10% of the power generated from the 6,000 PV panels installed on the Mineirão stadium will be used to supply the stadium with all of its power needs; the other 90% will be fed back to the grid as clean, renewable energy. “Sustainability is one of the key tenants in our vision for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. We hope this landmark project [Mineirão] will be the catalyst to spur other football stadiums that may install solar PV systems across Brazil, serving to increase the production and use of renewable power in the country,” says Frederico Addiechi, Head of Corporate Social Responsibility of FIFA.
The iconic venue Estádio do Maracanã, which was recently renovated, will generate over 550 MWh of clean electricity and could offset approximately 350 tons of CO2 each year. Arena Stadium, which will host five matches, is powered with clean energy from a nearby 1MW solar power plant. An on-site visitor center at the Arena Pernambuco will promote solar energy education by allowing visitors to track the system’s power performance.
The amount of clean power and the publicity about solar energy that these projects will generate is certainly commendable and absolutely significant in the sustainability sector. These FIFA World Cup Games some of the positive steps taken in the right direction for sustainability but there is also another side to this equation –countries impacted by energy poverty.
British NGO Practical Action reports that one-third of the countries competing in the FIFA 2014 World Cup are unable to produce as much solar energy as one of the stadiums they are competing in. Another startling fact is that the greenest stadium of all World Cup venues, The Esadio Nacional, produces 2.5 MW of solar power, which is approximately the same amount that the entire country of Ghana produces. 84% of Ghana’s 23.5 million people rely on fossil fuels for energy and only 11% of its citizens have access to clean energy.
According to the International Energy Association, 1.3 billion people worldwide lack access to electricity. Not having electricity impedes economic growth, health, and education in these developing countries where a substantial portion of the world’s population lives in poverty. A study done by the Practical Action group found that the only way of reaching these poverty-stricken populations is not via a traditional grid-based electric system, but from more innovative off-grid systems such as solar, hydro and wind. The FIFA 2014 World Cup games set a remarkable example of progress and we should appreciate the impressive sustainability initiatives, while still recognizing that we have a ways to go before reaching the goal of ending energy poverty.