Solar powers Brazil’s World Cup


For the following month, the world is expected to keep its eyes on the 2014 World Cup's 80 football matches between the 32 participant nations. Brazil and Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) officials are hoping attention will stay on the pitch and not on Brazil's streets, often filled by locals protesting against the Cup's over-budget and alleged ill management in a country accused of under-funding educational and health care systems.

Despite the controversies of this year's World Cup there is an element Brazil can be proud of: This is the greenest World Cup in football's history. And the main reason behind its green credentials is solar PV.

Overall, of the tournament's 12 venues, only three are currently equipped with solar photovoltaic installations, although a further two stadiums are soon going to install PV systems.

Specifically, Arena Pernambuco in the city of Recife recently completed a 1 MW PV installation with panels provided by China's Yingli Green Energy. The Mineirao Stadium in the city of Belo Horizonte also boasts a 1.4 MW rooftop PV system built in 2013 by Portugal's Martifer Solar.

Yingli Green Energy also partnered with Light ESCO, EDF Consultoria and the State of Rio de Janeiro to install PV modules at the Estadio do Maracana in the city of Rio de Janeiro — the venue for the tournament's final match on July 13.

The PV system “has a 400 kW installed capacity, consisting of approximately 2,500 square meters of photovoltaic panels on the surface covering the stadium terraces and can reach a generation of 500 megawatt hours per year supplying 3% of the stadium's power requirements,” Fabiana Castro, communication officer of Maracana's operating company, told pv magazine.

Two more PV systems will be installed at Brazil's FIFA World Cup stadiums. A spokesperson for the World Cup from Brazil's federal government told pv magazine that “Brasilia's National Stadium Mane Garrincha will be equipped with a PV system and the solar panels will be installed in 2014, after the World Cup.”

The installation “will have about 9,600 photovoltaic panels with capacity to generate 2.5 MW, corresponding to the supply of almost 2,000 households per day,” the spokesperson added. “After its installation, the stadium will be the first in the world to be self-sufficient in energy production and also able to use the surplus energy in other parts of the city.”

Brazil's federal government announced in April that a Brazilian consortium formed by Siner Engenharia e Comercio Ltda and Ebes Sistemas de Energia Sa had won the tender for the Mane Garrincha Stadium PV system, which will cover 75% of the stadium's rooftop surface.

Gustavo Junqueira, operation manager of Itaipava Arena Fonte Nova in the city of Salvador, told pv magazine that after the World Cup, Salvador's stadium “will install 500 kW of solar PV, capable of generating 750 megawatt hours per year and equivalent to the average consumption of 3,000 Brazilians.” The project, Junqueira said, will require an investment of around BRL 5.5 million ($2.5 million) and will use flexible panels installed on the compression ring of the roof. “The installation of the solar plant will reduce energy consumption in the arena by 10%,” Junqueira added.

The operating companies of some Brazilian stadiums preferred to stress that although they do not currently own photovoltaic systems to generate electricity, they do use solar systems for heating their water. This is the case at the Pantanal Arena in Cuiaba, whose operator told pv magazine that “structural integrity tests have also been done on the arena and if in the future there is a decision to do install solar modules, there will not be a problem to install them.”

Greener future World Cups?

Simon Trace, chairman of the British non-governmental organization Practical Action pointed out that “on the one hand, the organizers and FIFA are to be congratulated for making a considerable financial investment and making this the greenest World Cup in history. However, it is also an indictment of the investment in renewable energy in the developing world that there are 10 competing countries that do not even produce as much solar energy as a single World Cup stadium.”

Trace's comment refers to Brasilia's stadium, which once completed will boast a 2.5 MW PV system. Practical Action said that “Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Cameroon, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Honduras, Iran, Ivory Coast and Uruguay all produce less solar power than the 2.5 MW solar capability of the Estadio Nacional Mane Garrincha in Brasilia.”

Others though have argued that although Brazil's World Cup is an improvement compared to past tournaments green-wise, the outcome is far from impressive. Solar PV in total has spread widely since the 2010 World Cup, but for a tournament accused of over-spending and which reached a total budget of some $11.5 billion, 5.9 MW of solar power is rather little, critics argue.

The 2014 World Cup matches will be played in the following twelve venues: Arena Amazonia in Manaus, Arena Castelao in Fortaleza, Estadio das Dunas in Natal, Arena Pernambuco in Recife, Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador, National Stadium Mane Garrincha in Brasilia, Pantanal Arena in Cuiaba, Mineirao Stadium in Belo Horizonte, Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Arena Corinthians in Sao Paulo (Arena de Sao Paulo), Arena de Baixada in Curitiba and Estadio Beira-Rio in Porto Alegre.

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