An NFL rivalry…over solar

Dan Snyder, the owner of The Washington Redskins, is not exactly a tree-hugger. To the contrary, he once offered to pay the National Park Service $25,000 to cut down trees on federal land near his estate overlooking the Potomac River. So when Snyder embraces solar power, by installing more than 8,000 solar panels at FedEx Field, well, that tells you something.

It tells you that the economics of solar make sense–because Snyder is known for extracting every dollar he can from the business of the Redskins.

It also tells you that he’s a competitor.  The Redskins deal with NRG Energy, a Princeton, N.J.-based independent power producer,  took root at last year’s Super Bowl, after the NFL East rival Philadelphia Eagles announced that they were installing solar, wind and biofuel energy at Lincoln Financial Field. [See my 2010 blogpost, Climate leaders: Chevy, NRG Energy and the Eagles].

No surprise, then, that the Redskins/NRG announcement made a point of calling the solar project “the largest installation at an NFL stadium.” It’s also the largest solar installation in the Washington, D.C., metro area.

While I prefer baseball to football, and the New York Giants to the Redskins (despite last Sunday’s game), I made the trek  to FedEx field by Metro today to see the solar panels and hear what Snyder and David Crane, the CEO of NRG, had to say about them. [click to continue…]

Why the “Petro Metro” wants electric cars

Why on earth would Houston, the city of drill-baby-drill, the fossil-fuel capital of America, the city whose NFL franchise used to be called the Oilers, embrace the electric car? For good reason, it turns out–so says the city’s mayor, the local utility company, Reliant Energy,  its parent company NRG Energy and NRG’s CEO, David Crane.

“Houston’s not a natural market for electric cars,” Crane admitted, when we met the other day. “But electric cars are good for our business in all kinds of ways,” he added. So NRG and Reliant is working with officials Houston, America’s 4th largest city, to persuade Nissan to make Houston one of the leading launch markets for the Nissan Leaf, the all electric vehicle that the Japanese automaker plans to start selling later this year.

Houston's skyline at night
Houston's skyline at night

“We are the Petro Metro, but we are also a car city,” said Houston’s newly-elected mayor, Annise Parker, at an event earlier this month to welcome Nissan to the city. Certainly there’s a sizable market awaiting Nissan in the city. Houston is home to 4.5 million vehicles that travel 86 million miles a day, according to Reuters.

The problem for Houston–and for most other cities that want to welcome electric cars–is that it lacks an infrastructure of charging stations where electric car owners can fill up their cars with, er, electricity. This winter, Nissan took the Leaf on a three-month, 24-city tour designed to spark excitement about the car, a five-passenger car that the company says will travel about 100 miles on a single charge.

But because the Leaf will be produced in limited numbers, at least at first, the tour was also a way for Nissan to solicit partners, mostly cities and utility companies, that will assume the costs of building charging stations that will allow electric car drivers to overcome what is known as “range anxiety”–the feeling that they might run out of electricity without a charging station nearby. [click to continue…]