Cardinal green: Busch Stadium cuts costs with energy efficiency

News-DemocratJune 9, 2014 

The home of the Redbirds has gone green.

Among his duties as the Vice President of Stadium Operations for the St. Louis Cardinals, Joe Abernathy tracks energy consumption at Busch Stadium. Seven years ago, the year after the team's move to the current ballpark in downtown St. Louis, a light went off in his head.

"Because we were going from a 40-year-old building to a new building, we thought it would be running efficiently," he said. "But we found out after a year that there were many, many more opportunities for efficiency."

So in 2008, the Cardinals stepped up to the plate and initiated a sustainability plan called "4 A Greener Game." Under Abernathy's leadership, the Cardinals tapped into Act On Energy, an energy efficiency program operated by St. Louis-based utility company Ameren that provides energy-saving guidance for Ameren's residential, business and industrial customers.

To achieve better energy efficiency, most of the lighting at Busch Stadium has been replaced with compact fluorescent lights, or CFLs. All of the lighting at Ballpark Village, the retail development across the street from the stadium that opened this season, is entirely CFLs. Solar panels have also been installed at the ball park.

Abernathy said these moves have helped the stadium cut its energy use by 20 percent.

"When I started, we were spending about $1.3 million on electricity," Abernathy said. "Now, my electrical bill is about $1.6 million. ... We're spending more, but our bill would probably be closer to $2 million than $1.6 million had we not taken some of these energy-saving efforts. From a green standpoint, that's where most of the money saved comes from."

Keith Martin, Director of Energy Efficiency for Ameren Illinois, said lighting is the simplest way to achieve energy efficiency. Martin said lighting, on average, accounts for 11 percent of a customer's energy costs. He also said millions of energy-efficient light bulbs have been distributed to customers through Ameren's program.

"Without a doubt, lighting is probably the quickest payback for the investment," Martin said. "The incandescent light bulb has been in place for a long time and so these new compact fluorescent lamps and LEDs are more efficient. CFLs use 75 percent less energy."

According to the National Resource Defense Council, the Cardinals' 4 A Greener Game program is credited with recycling more than 1,836 tons of solid waste, more than 575 tons of yard waste, and more than 110 tons of composted organic material at Busch Stadium since 2008. Abernathy said the ballpark has reduced its solid waste output by 30 percent and its water use by 10 percent.

The Cardinals have also installed occupancy sensors in several rooms at the stadium that automatically turn lights off when no one is present. More energy efficient pumps and blowers have been installed in the ballpark's heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system. Abernathy said refrigeration equipment that was installed when the ballpark opened in 2006 has also been replaced with more energy-efficient models.

"We found that we were using big equipment to cool small areas," Abernathy said. "But now we're getting equipment that is properly sized and more economized."

Busch Stadium is now one of the greenest in professional sports. Last October, the National Resource Defense Council ranked Busch Stadium at No. 5 among its Top 10 Energy Efficient Stadiums list. Lincoln Financial Field, home of the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles, ranked first. Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. placed second, AT&T Park in San Francisco was third and CenturyLink Field in Seattle ranked fourth.

Abernathy, who is now in his 18th season with the Cardinals, believes there is more opportunity for Busch Stadium to climb in those standings. His said his job is a "continuous journey" of searching for further energy efficiency to make the home of the Redbirds even more green.

"We're always looking for that next thing," he said. "We have a lot of refrigeration equipment down there. We cool a lot of beer and soda. There's opportunities there. We make a lot of ice, and we think there are some opportunities to do that in a more efficient manner. Even in the way we cool some of the technology applications we have, the amazing amount of technology we have in the building with various computer rooms and network rooms, we're finding out that some of those areas are not as efficient as they could be."

But none of this would have been possible, Abernathy said, had the Cardinals not investigated ways to enhance its infrastructure. He said keeping track, or "keeping score," is important.

"It's keeping score, not only from an energy standpoint but from a dollar standpoint," he said.

"If you won't keep score, you'll never know."

Contact reporter Will Buss at wbuss@bnd.com or 239-2526.

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