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Seattle Seahawks home to add Solyndra solar panels

Qwest Field Event Center plans to install 3,750 solar panels to its cooling white roof. The combination is expected to increase the effectiveness of the panels.

Seattle Seahawks President Peter McLoughlin checks out a Solyndra solar array on the roof of Qwest Field. Solyndra/Corky Trewin

The Seattle Seahawks stadium, Qwest Field Event Center, is adding solar panels to its roof.

The solar arrays from Fremont, Calif.-based Solyndra are racks of thin-film CIGS (copper, indium, gallium, and selenide) solar cells shaped like tubes. The racks will cover approximately 2.5 acres, about 80 percent, of Qwest Field, Solyndra announced yesterday.

Solyndra is known for its tube-shape solar cells that capture direct, diffuse, and reflected sunlight throughout the day without the need for a rotating mechanism, the method often used to maximize the efficiency of flat solar panels.

The arrays for Qwest Field will come from Solyndra's state-of-the-art solar manufacturing plant in California, which was built in part with a $535 million federal loan guarantee from the Department of Energy. The plant is a showcase for U.S. green-tech manufacturing: It employs over 1,000 people operating robotics manufacturing tools as a way to curb production costs and compete against inexpensive solar panels from China while keeping jobs in the U.S.

In this case, the arrays will also take advantage of the light reflected from the Seattle stadium's white "cool roof," which was originally installed to reduce the amount of heat absorbed by the building. Because Solyndra's panels can capture reflected light, the white roof reflection should increase the system's electricity production, according to Solyndra.

The solar system is being installed by McKinstry, an energy solutions company that has also designed and installed Qwest Field's low-flow water fixtures and high-efficiency lighting systems.

When complete at the end of the summer, the solar installation is expected to generate enough electricity annually to power the equivalent of 95 homes, and result in a 21 percent reduction in the stadium's utility costs. As a way to promote and educate people about solar technology, fans will also be able to track the electricity production and use at computer kiosks on the stadium grounds, according to Solyndra.

The Seattle Seahawks team is owned by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, who recently created the Green Sports Alliance in conjunction with the Natural Resources Defense Council. The Green Sports Alliance, which has the endorsement of six pro sports leagues as well as the Environmental Protection Agency, has made it its mission to persuade sports stadiums around the U.S. to upgrade their environmental efforts.