Arsenal recently installed a 2-megawatt battery system at Emirates Stadium, with plans to expand it next summer. (Courtesy Arsenal)
Two European soccer stadiums have followed a path forged by StubHub Center in Carson, Calif., by bringing battery storage systems to stadium operations, calling the effort a cost-effective way to handle energy consumption.
Premier League power Arsenal announced its phased battery storage system in November at Emirates Stadium in London. That follows the installation over the summer of a system by soccer club Ajax at Johan Cruijff Arena in Amsterdam.
“It works great,” said Adam Duvendeck, vice president of operations at StubHub Center, about the venue’s system, which was put into place in 2016. “It is not a sexy installment, but the usage and ability of the battery is pretty awesome.”
The onsite battery systems allow stadium operators to store energy for discharge during times of peak usage. The teams see this as an environmentally friendly solution that allows them to buy clean energy or store energy created on site, but it also offers a way to offset massive power draws from the local utility grid. In Los Angeles, this saves the StubHub Center money.
“We use it in ‘peak shaving,’” Duvendeck said. “Every building is going to have energy that costs different amounts at different times. Essentially, this allows us to buy energy when it’s the cheapest — overnight, for example — and then discharge when it is at its highest.”
StubHub Center, owned and operated by AEG, has a Major League Soccer tenant, the L.A. Galaxy, and is the temporary home of the NFL’s Los Angeles Chargers, who are scheduled to move to their new home in Inglewood in 2020.
StubHub has a 2-megawatt battery system at the north end of the stadium that uses Tesla battery technology. Duvendeck said the stadium works with Stem, a Millbrae, Calif.-based artificial intelligence smart energy solution provider, to run algorithms on the best times to buy energy from the local grid, charge the battery system and discharge the stored energy.
For example, say the stadium burns through 2,000 kilowatts during a four-hour event on a hot summer afternoon in Southern California, when energy costs are highest. That can be dropped to 1,600 kilowatts if the venue applies 400 kilowatts of stored energy from the battery system, reducing the cost of energy for the event.
“It is a great tool in our arsenal,” Duvendeck said. “I’m sure for most venues, after labor, energy tends to be one of the more expensive single line items in the budget, and we are trying to figure out ways to reduce energy consumption and impact on the grid overall.”
Dutch soccer club Ajax turned to Nissan for its battery storage system at Johan Cruijff Arena, equaling a 3-megawatt system to power the stadium during busy times.
“Thanks to this energy storage system, the stadium can use its own sustainable energy more intelligently and it can trade the batteries’ available storage capacity,” said Henk van Raan, director of innovation at the venue. “The arena is assured of a considerable amount of power, even during an outage. As a result, the stadium will contribute to a stable Dutch energy grid.”
The project was a collaboration among Nissan, energy company Eaton and the Amsterdam Climate and Energy Fund.
Arsenal turned to Octopus Energy to operate its Pivot Power system, installing a 2-megawatt battery system, with plans to add an additional megawatt of capacity next summer. Investment company Downing LLP has funded the effort, and Mehal Shah, Downing investment manager, called it a landmark deal, something that will help big companies and investors take notice of the transition to a low-carbon economy. “Battery storage is attracting growing interest from smart businesses like Arsenal,” he said.
In the United States, Duvendeck said that incentives — whether federal or local — and subsidies help offset the upfront costs and shorten the time needed to recoup the outlay.
The Emirates Stadium system can run the 60,000-seat venue for an entire match, the club said, the equivalent of powering 2,700 homes for two hours.
As at StubHub Center, the effort allows Arsenal to avoid peak-power pricing, buying electricity when it is cheap and storing it for later use. Typically in London, energy can cost three times more at peak times than overnight.
“This is a big step forward for us in being efficient with energy usage, and it builds on our work in reducing our carbon footprint as an organization,” said Vinai Venkatesham, Arsenal managing director. “We have been powered by green energy since 2016 thanks to Octopus Energy, and the battery storage system will support our efforts further.”
Venkatesham said moving Emirates Stadium onto the battery storage system will also help provide flexible capacity for the local utility. The battery energy will be automatically traded and optimized by aggregator Open Energi with British utility National Grid in response to market signals.
“Arsenal is showing how football clubs and other big power users can save money and support the U.K.’s climate change and clean-air targets,” said Matt Allen, Pivot Power CEO. “Batteries are central to creating a cost-effective, low-carbon economy and we are keen to help government, local authorities and businesses seize the opportunities they offer.”
Duvendeck said that he’s quick to tell those who come asking that battery storage works exceptionally well, especially for those with predictable usage situations, such as office buildings. For a stadium, it works more like a manufacturing plant that ramps up for a production run. “While we are not producing any type of material products, we are producing experiences,” he said.
The Galaxy played six of its 17 home games in 2018 on weekdays, and the weekend games fluctuated between afternoon and evening start times. “Regardless of the timing, there will be points in time where energy is less expensive and points where energy is more expensive,” Duvendeck said. “The battery allows us to dictate how expensive our power is going to be. We can hedge the way the rates flex throughout the day, week or month and respond by reducing our consumption and expanding the battery during that time period.”
Duvendeck said they remain interested in additional battery capacity, though no plans are in place yet.