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The greening of Gillette

Energy, recycling initiatives put the Patriots’ home among the most environmentally friendly stadiums in the US

An anemometer will measure wind speed on The Kraft Group’s land to see if a wind turbine can help Gillette Stadium meet its energy needs. An anemometer will measure wind speed on The Kraft Group’s land to see if a wind turbine can help Gillette Stadium meet its energy needs. (Barry Chin/Globe Staff)
By Michele Morgan Bolton
Globe Correspondent / December 2, 2010

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From the time visitors park at Gillette Stadium until they leave, the signs of environmental awareness are everywhere.

Recycling bags are handed out at the parking lot.

In and around the stadium, solar-powered compactors collect plastic bottles and cans.

The toilets are flushed with water that has been recycled at the stadium’s own waste-water-treatment plant.

Some of the electricity for New England Patriots and New England Revolution games is generated by wind turbines in the Midwest.

Next door, 30 percent of the energy used at Patriot Place comes from a 525-kilowatt solar array on the shopping center’s roof.

If patrons don’t use the trash compactors, they can throw their bottles and cans into the recycling bags and leave them in the parking space for collection later.

And someday the weather station recently erected in the parking lot could become wind turbines generating power for the stadium and Patriot Place.

The Kraft Group, which owns the shopping mall as well as the sports teams and stadium, is practicing a commitment to energy efficiency and ecosystem management.

“[Robert] Kraft and his organization believe this is the way the world is going. And, as usual, he wants to be ahead of it,’’ said Dan Krantz, the group’s director of site development.

Although there is no official ranking for the environmental friendliness of professional sports facilities, Gillette is one of the best, said industry analyst Mark McSherry, founder and president of Falmouth-based Pro Green Sports.

A May 2008 survey that received 79 responses from teams in the National Football League, National Basketball Association, National Hockey League, and Major League Baseball found that roughly two of every three teams are starting to look at or are developing and implementing a green strategy, he said.

About 30 percent said they have already implemented energy and resource conservation strategies.

The Kraft Group’s solar array at Patriot Place is the largest of any pro sports complex in North America, McSherry said. Second is an array at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, which generates 364 kilowatts of solar power.

However the Seattle Seahawks management is considering a 600-kilowatt solar array at their stadium, and the Philadelphia Eagles plan to power Lincoln Financial Field with a combination of wind, solar, and dual-fuel generated electricity, which would make it the world’s first major sports stadium to use almost entirely on-site renewable energy, he said.

“In my opinion, though, the Patriots are among the best sports organizations when it comes to implementing sustainability initiatives, as you might expect,’’ McSherry said. “The Krafts have green DNA. They recognize the business opportunity and their social responsibility.’’

Last month, The Kraft Group pulled a permit from the Foxborough Building Department to erect a temporary weather station that will gather data for nine months to a year. It was installed a few weeks ago.

“If it were determined that a wind turbine was feasible and The Kraft Group decided to construct one, the renewable energy generated could be used both at the stadium and Patriot Place,’’ said Jeff Cournoyer, the Patriots’ director of corporate communications.

The tower is located on the opposite side of Route 1 from the stadium, on the point of highest elevation on the 700-acre property, Cournoyer said.

“Based on wind maps for the area, that is where the wind should be strongest on site, and the tower’s purpose is to try to confirm that,’’ he said.

That tower is just an anemometer set atop a tall steel pipe; it was funded with a $55,000 matching grant from the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center.

“A lot of businesses and institutions in Massachusetts are looking toward offsetting their energy consumption, which is a good sign,’’ said Kate Plourd, a spokeswoman for the center.

Among them are Varian Semiconductor in Gloucester, Jiminy Peak ski resort in the Berkshires, Massachusetts Maritime Academy in Buzzards Bay, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute on Cape Cod, and Hyannis Country Gardens, she said.

If the turbine makes sense, the Kraft Group will request a warrant article at Foxborough Town Meeting to amend the town’s zoning law to include turbines, said William Casbarra, Foxborough’s building commissioner.

Casbarra said Foxborough has had similar inquiries from residents and businesses, but no one else has taken a definitive step.

“It’s a great idea,’’ he said.

At this point, it’s impossible to say how much energy a wind turbine would produce or what it would cost. But the property’s existing conservation measures, Krantz said, have already proven to be good for the bottom line.

Energy management at the stadium has reduced electricity and natural gas use by more than 25 percent in the last four years, officials said. Paper and cardboard is recycled daily in the offices, and day-of-game employees receive gasoline cards if they car pool.

Without providing dollar figures, Krantz said the waste-water-treatment system saves money by reclaiming water that otherwise would have to be purchased and treated. According to a fact sheet provided by The Kraft Group, 15.6 million gallons of water were reclaimed from February 2008 to January 2009.

The energy generated by the solar panels is owned by a Constellation Energy Group unit and sold to The Kraft Group under a 20-year agreement at a fixed price. The group will realize savings if electricity rates rise over that period, which Krantz said is a safe assumption.

In addition, a tractor-trailer’s worth of plastic from bottles is collected from each Patriots game for recycling, which reduces hauling and disposal costs.

The Kraft Group has also undertaken conservation measures that don’t show a financial return, Krantz said. During the stadium’s construction, for example, the company spent $2 million to re-expose a 3,000-foot stretch of the Neponset River, which had been buried in the 1940s. The “new’’ 9-acre river corridor includes thousands of native plants, officials said.

Lynda Walsh, who chairs the Foxborough Board of Selectmen, said she supports the stadium’s efforts to preserve town resources. And, she knows firsthand the power of the wind.

“You get out of your car there and it just takes you away,’’ she said.

Michele Morgan Bolton can be reached at mmbolton1@verizon.net.

Water, energy stadium savings

15.6 million
Gallons of recycled waste water February 2008 to January 2009

525
Kilowatts produced by Patriot Place solar panels

26 percent
Reduction in electrical consumption from 2003 to 2009

72 / 68
Thermostat settings for summer / winter

$10
Gas card given to employees who car pool on game days

SOURCE: The Kraft Group

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