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The Battery goes solar

When the Quakes won the Carolina Cup this pre-season, I hope the guys in suits took a good look at Blackbaud Stadium, home of the USL First Division Charleston Battery. The first privately-funded soccer specific stadium in the United States (they opened a month before Columbus' Crew Stadium did, back in 1999) Blackbaud Stadium is also the first soccer stadium in the country to go green.

You wouldn't expect people from the San Francisco Bay Area to be getting tips on environmentally-friendly practices from folks in South Carolina, but the Charleston Battery recently announced the installation of 60 solar panels at Blackbaud Stadium, as part of the club's "Go Green" initiative.

That's right. We're talking about a solar powered Battery.

The solar panels will generate 11 kilowatts of power, and offset approximately 12 tons of carbon dioxide per year. "Our solar panel array is one of the largest private installations in the region and we are excited to be producing and using green, clean, energy here at Blackbaud Stadium," said Andrew Bell, the Battery's Director of Soccer & Stadium Operations. "The panels are visible to every fan in our stadium and will also be seen clearly during our nationally televised games this coming summer. It's a terrific opportunity for us to reduce the stadium's carbon footprint and utilize the team's fan base to get the word out to a wider audience about global warming."

The Battery's "Go Green" initiatives go well beyond using solar energy. Last summer, they brought in The Sustainability Institute, a local non-profit group, to conduct an energy audit of their entire operation . "They have given us a comprehensive blue-print to work from," Bell told Center Line Soccer. "We have already implemented many of their suggestions: switching light bulbs, switching to tankless water heaters in our restaurant, switching all (marketing) collateral to 100% recycled stock, enabling power-management features on A/V equipment, switching appliances for more energy efficient models, purchasing carbon offsets for the team travel, and plan to implement more over the next few months. One change that we've made and which we're very excited about is the switch to a geothermal HVAC system for our office building which has resulted in significant energy savings already."

At Blackbaud Stadium, the Battery plan on having a kiosk with information about their solar energy system, along with real-time data on it transmitted to the scoreboards to educate their fans about sustainability and renewable energy. The club's full array of "green" initiatives are expected to be completed in time for their "Go Green Night" on Friday, May 9. That night's game, vs. Miami FC Blues, will be broadcast live on Fox Soccer Channel. (No word yet on whether they'll wear green jerseys that night instead of their usual black and yellow.)

So, big cheers to the Charleston Battery. They're reducing their impact on the environment, their investment in "green" energy will pay for itself over time, and in the short term they're enjoying some positive press coverage well beyond the sports pages of their local newspaper.

Sounds like a good move all-around to me.