Sunday, May 12, 2013

Prudential Center Sets Pace in Environmental Conservation

By Anthony Smith

On March 23, the National Hockey League joined millions of homes throughout the United States for the second consecutive year in celebrating the World Wildlife Fund’s “Earth Hour,” the world’s largest annual action to raise awareness of environmental conservation.

On that date, 18 of the 30 teams that make up the NHL were in action, including the New Jersey Devils, who proudly took part in the event. The Devils did their part by shutting down all non-essential electrical equipment at Prudential Center from 8:30 pm until 9:30 pm during their game against the Florida Panthers at their home arena, Prudential Center in Newark, NJ.

While annually participating in the planet’s largest conservation spectacle is an important step towards helping the environment, the folks at Prudential Center do not stop there. They go to great lengths to make the Newark arena a leader in environmental conservation.

NJ Devils Win EPA Conservation Award

The New Jersey Devils, the building’s main tenant, have long been known for being environmentally conservative, and have won awards from the US Environmental Protection Agency for their donation of unused food from arena events, according to the Wall Street Journal. But that is only the beginning of their conservation of food materials.

The Devils made a run to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2012, bringing more fans into the arena than ever before. Add in the 66 non-sporting events that Prudential Center hosted, and you have an end result of the five-year-old building ranking as the tenth highest grossing arena in the world. As the arena continues to gain popularity, the building that holds a capacity crowd of 17,625 for hockey and 19,500 for other events goes through a great deal of food, most notably chicken tenders and fries.

According to a March 2012 Wall Street Journal article, more than two million visitors per year consumed almost 380,000 chicken tenders and over 79,000 pounds of french fries. The high consumption of this typical stadium meal leaves behind a large amount of cooking oil waste, much of which was just being thrown away, loading dock manger Sharnda Robinson told the newspaper.

As a result, a Newark-based company called “Grease Lightning” appeared at Prudential Center offering a solution: converting the 1,500 gallons of used cooking oil into biodiesel fuel.

“Grease Lightning,” founded in 2010, processes and purifies vegetable oil and turns it into renewable energy sources. According to their website, the company works with over 2,500 businesses offering the same services they do for Prudential Center. The environmental-friendly biofuel created from the oil sells for anywhere between $3.20 and $3.50 per gallon, the Wall Street Journal article stated, a price that is not much, if any, higher than the price of a gallon of regular unleaded fuel.

Turning Cooking Grease into Biofuel

Officials at Prudential Center were intrigued and struck a deal to sell the 1,500 gallons of oil per month and buy back 1,200 gallons of biodiesel fuel to power the arena’s back-up generators, plus the “Devils Army” truck, a 1950s-style military vehicle parked in the arena’s “Championship Plaza” on game days as a symbol of the Devils’ fan base, otherwise known as the “Devils Army.”

“The fact that we’re running it all on chicken tenders and fries is pretty remarkable,” said Troy Flynn, vice president of operations at Prudential Center.

Officials at the arena haven’t stopped there. When Prudential Center was being built, $1.5 million of the $325 million spent on the arena’s construction was used to install a state-of-the-art dehumidification system. This system keeps the air in the arena dry and cool, far exceeding the standards put in place by the NHL.

Many arenas in the league require the air conditioning system to be set to a high level to keep the arena cool enough so that the playing surface does not melt. While this is an effective method, it is also a costly method, and one that drastically increases a building’s carbon footprint. The system at Prudential Center also allows officials at the building to not worry about maintaining the temperature in the building as has to be done at other venues.

“Buildings without dehumidifiers demand a lot of human judgment. They have to start their air-conditioners very early in the day and pray once the game starts that they are able to hold that temperature,” Jim Cima, senior vice president of operations, told the New York Times.

Cutting Energy Use by 22 Percent

Humidity levels need to remain no higher than 30 percent inside the building, and the equipment uses sensors, rather than human labor, that assist the dehumidifiers with self-adjusting. The system that is operated at Prudential Center reduces energy consumption by 22 percent, a feat that will pay for itself in less than five years. This will allow the building operators to profit from the money they save, according to the New York Times.

While other venues have made strides to become more environmentally friendly, none have gone further than the efforts by the Devils and Prudential Center, and “going green” is something that the arena figures to expand on in the years to come.

Anthony Smith is a senior Journalism student from Dumont, New Jersey, graduating from Ramapo College in May 2013. He is an aspiring Public Relations professional with intentions of working on sports related tasks and subjects.

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