The Tax Aspects of Major League Baseball's Green Team Initiative
In March of 2008, Major League Baseball announced a collaboration with the National Resources Defense Counsel called the Green Team Initiative.¹ This is an important initiative because it is a comprehensive program and major league ball parks are large facilities with a high degree of public visibility.
This article focuses on some of the major energy reduction opportunities in stadiums and the tax opportunities related to many of those initiatives. Stadiums are typically located in dense population areas where electric grids experience the most demand stress related to finite electrical supply. This is particularly relevant in high cost electric markets like New York, California and Texas that have multiple stadiums. Also, many new stadiums are roof covered enabling and requiring air conditioning which adds huge new electric costs.
Since MLB stadiums are large facilities that for baseball purposes are only used for 81 home regular season games a year, they have a unique ability to use their physicality to generate excess energy to help their immediate neighbors and the communities that support them.
Many stadiums are privately owned and many stadiums are government owned. Energy Policy Act (EPAct) tax benefits are available in both situations since commercial owners are eligible beneficiaries, and so are the designers of for new and retrofitted government owned stadiums.
EPAct (IRC Section 179D) provides an immediate tax deduction of up to $1.80 per square foot for building investments that achieve specified energy cost reductions beyond ASHRAE 90.1-2001 building energy code standards. A one-time $1.80 per square foot deduction is the maximum tax deduction, but deductions of up to 60 cents per square foot are also available for three types of building systems: lighting, including lighting controls, HVAC, and the building envelope, which includes roof, walls, windows, doors, and floor/foundation.2
Lighting Tax Incentives
Stadiums have an immense amount of lighting, and one of the best ways to reduce stadium lighting is to install energy efficient interior and exterior lighting fixtures. The qualifying interior stadium lighting projects are eligible for up to a 60 cent per square-foot immediate EPAct lighting tax deduction.
To obtain this tax deduction, stadiums will need to replace their inefficient lighting by December 31st, 2013. Many stadiums have nearby parking garages, and garages provide one of best EPAct tax deduction opportunities when prior generation lighting fixtures are replaced by EPAct qualifying fluorescent, induction and or LED (Light Emitting Diode lighting). We are beginning to see a marked increase in LED lighting for large parking garages. Although LED lighting is expensive, it has a long, useful life, and many of these facilities collect enough revenue to justify the upfront cost necessary to pay obtain the long term operating cost reduction savings related to energy and maintenance cost savings. Stadiums are often supported by local area parking garages and MLB should lead by example and encouraging those facilities to also reduce their parking garage lighting energy use.
Stadiums with domes and retractable roofs have HVAC needs throughout the entire facility, and uncovered stadiums have HVAC in locker rooms, concession areas, offices, restaurants, rest rooms, mechanical rooms and other support areas. Because of the large size of these facilities, special purpose HVAC such as thermal storage, geothermal and energy recovery ventilation can be used in these facilities to obtain large energy cost reductions and obtain the Section 179D 60 cent per square foot HVAC tax deduction.
Using HVAC to Help MLB Stadium Neighbors
Instead of adding to the local areas overall energy costs, baseball stadiums can use uses their large size and intermittent power needs to provide large district wide HVAC systems that allow can allow nearby facilities to benefit from their investments in very energy HVAC efficient technologies. This has been accomplished by the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field in Phoenix Arizona. The Diamondbacks are doing this with high efficiency chillers and a thermal storage system. Using an extensive piping system, the thermal storage technology provides cooling for a variety of downtown Phoenix buildings. Brian Kearney, Executive Director of the Downtown Phoenix district, forecasted that “this innovative system will help ensure that this momentum continues by providing a competitive benefit to developers, building owners and tenants who are able to take advantage of it.”
The multiple benefits of the system have been described this way: “Ice storage works by producing air conditioning ahead of the moment of need. The cooling district will use an ice-based chiller system to manufacture ice at night when utility loads – and market prices – are lowest. During peak cooling periods, the ice will be melted, and the water will be pumped through an underground distribution network for use in air-conditioned buildings. The water is then returned to the icemaker for reconditioning. The system not only ensures conservation of a vital natural resource (water), but it also eliminates the need for buildings to own air-conditioning systems that use ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), thus potentially reducing the “heat island” effect of increased temperatures in downtown Phoenix.”3
Solar Photovoltaic Electricity Generation
Solar (P.V.) generates extra electricity that can be used to provide electricity for the building or can be transferred to the electrical grid for use by others. The process of transferring P.V. solar electricity to the grid is sometimes call nega watts, or net metering. Commercial solar installations are eligible for a 30% tax credit, and the credit was recently extended through the end of 2016.4 Solar material prices are rapidly decreasing, which in effect is increasing the economic payback from this technology.
Baseball Stadiums provide interesting solar electricity opportunities because the physical layout of stadiums usually provides for multiple solar installations. Shading from nearby structuring normally isn't an issue and the 81 game day limited use means the majority of the PV generation can be transferred back to the electric grid to benefit the community. The following table provides the name of existing MLB stadiums that are in jurisdictions that allow excess solar electricity to be sold into the market.
In 2007, the San Francisco Giants installed 120 kW of solar panels in three locations in their stadium. The three location system utilized 590 panels provided by Sharp Corp.7
Solar Electricity TV Offset Example
Many of today's wide screen TV's use tremendous amounts of electricity. MLB stadiums typically utilize hundreds of TV sets to keep fans of the game connected while waiting in line and dining. The Cleveland Indians made the solar generation/TV use connection when they installed their solar panels in 2007. Curtis Danburg, team spokesperson, stated that the panels generate 8.4 kilowatts, or “enough to energize the 400 televisions we have in the ballpark."8 TV electricity use has become such a concern that California is proposing minimum TV efficiency standards and Japan is offering 5% of purchase price incentives for energy efficient TV's and other appliances. The California energy commission says that televisions account for 10% of the electricity used in the average household and the new standards would require 50% less energy use. The proposed rules would come into effect in 2013 and affect all televisions manufactured from January 2011 onward.9
Yankee Stadium and Mets CitiField
In a surprising announcement, it has been publicly reported that both the of the recently opened Yankee Stadium and Mets CitiField stadiums use materially more energy than their predecessor stadiums.10 In view of today's more rigorous building energy codes and more energy efficient building equipment this is indeed a startling announcement particularly in view of New York's cities supply constrained electricity market. One reason given by the owners is the extensive use of energy inefficient wide screen TV's. The good news is that both of these stadiums can make good use of the MLB's new initiative and achieve substantial energy cost reduction which could be facilitated by the EPAct energy efficiency commercial tax incentives.
Using Baseball Statistics
From the time we are young we have all learned that baseball is game of statistics, whether it be calculating a hitter’s batting average, or a pitcher’s earned run average. Accordingly, measuring energy efficiency should be easy for MLB. MLB should be able to publish the energy efficiency data for all its ball parks, including lighting, HVAC, TV and appliance use. MLB should be given credit for any excess alternative energy generation provided to the community from technologies such as thermal storage and solar described above.
The MLB and National Resources Defense Council Team Greening program can be of great benefit to our country and can use a multitude of EPAct energy efficiency tax deductions and alternative energy tax credits to improve economic payback and accelerate its goals. Technologies like thermal storage can result in both energy savings and tax savings, and also platform additional energy and tax savings for neighboring buildings. It's nice to see America's favorite pastime become an integral part of its desired future time.
1. Major League Baseball Press Release. “Major League Baseball Goes Green in Collaboration with the Natural Resources Defense Council.” March 11, 2008.
2. Goulding, Charles, Goldman, Jacob, & DiMarino, Nicole. “EPAct Tax Deductions for Lighting Gain Wider Use.” Building Operating Management. July 2008. Pg 68-74.
3. APS Energy Services Press Release. “APS Energy Services To Develop Innovative District Cooling System For Downtown Phoenix Businesses - Bank One Ballpark Slated as First Customer.” October 20, 1999.
4. Goulding, Charles, Goldman, Jacob, & Goulding, Taylor. “Tax Planning for the 21st Solar Century.” Corporate Business Taxation Monthly. February 2009. Pg 23-26.
5. List of MLB Stadiums: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Major_League_Baseball_stadiums
6. IREC State By State Net Metering Table: http://www.irecusa.org/index.php?id=90
7. LaPedus, Mark. “Baseball Goes Solar.” July 9, 2007. EE Times.
8. Hadhazy, Adam. “Green Diamonds: Baseball Stadiums Take a Swing at Energy Efficiency.” Scientific American. April 5, 2009.
9. Adams, David. “California Says TV Manufacturers Need to Improve Energy Efficiency.” St. Petersburg Times. April 15, 2009
10. Sanderson, Bill. “Oh, Watt a Play! New Met, Yanks Parks Use Twice the Power.” NYPost. April 6, 2009.