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Fenway Park Goes Solar With Hot Water System

MLB's oldest ballpark raises the bar for accomplishing challenging retrofits with its new solar-hot water.


Dan Porrazzo, who does commercial sales for groSolar, oversaw the Fenway Park job.

The Boston Red Sox played their first game in Fenway Park on April 20, 1912. Exactly 88 years and one month later, a solar hot water system was christened at the old ball park by groSolar, a White River Junction, Vt.-based installers of commercial and residential solar energy systems.

What's the lesson for integrators? If Major League Baseball's oldest and most notoriously cramped park can be retrofitted for solar energy, just about any residential retrofit is possible.

In Fenway's case, the key was planning, planning and more planning, according to Dan Porrazzo, who does commercial sales for groSolar and oversaw the Fenway job.

The nickname "Friendly Fenway" doesn't apply to contractors, Porrazzo found out. He says groSolar got a chance to show off its retrofitting prowess in Fenway Park.

Since it purchased the club in 2002, the John Henry-led ownership group has been adding things to the inside and outside of the park to make it more functional in the new millennium.

The result is that there's "not a lot of space in here," Porrazzo says, standing on the roof of Fenway Park. "It was a tight squeeze to get the water tanks in there. Logistically, it was an interesting job."

There are seven groups of four water tanks, installed by groSolar, which get heated by solar energy. "These are 400-gallon tanks; they weigh 1,700 lbs. empty. Getting these up was a great feat."

In order to get the tanks up to the top floor, groSolar used a crane. First it brought up the solar collectors and set them on the south-facing slanted roof. Then it lifted the 28 tanks up to a platform and used a ramp to get them into predetermined, albeit tiny, spots.

Four solar hot water tanks and solar energy panels live in a small room with an extremely small crawl space leading to the main boiler room with two boilers plus a hot water tank.

"The boilers have two storage tanks plus separate gas hot water tanks," Porrazzo explains. The solar hot water is "going into their storage units."

Basically the solar hot water tanks are pre-heaters for Fenway's main hot water tanks, Porrazzo says. The cold water comes into the solar tanks, is heated and piped into the traditional boilers.

"The theory is that, on a good day, the water coming out of here is as hot or hotter than they need coming out of their tanks so their boilers never come on."

The park, by the way, uses a "tremendous amount of hot water," according to Porrazzo. There are several Red Sox-owned restaurants connected to the park that require hot water.

He says the plan is for solar heat to generate 37 percent of the required hot water for the park and restaurants. "I have a feeling it's going to be more. I'd be surprised if it's not at least 50 percent."

The Red Sox had issued no feedback to groSolar as of press time and Porrazzo says that's a good thing. "It won't make any difference in the way they operate. That's the whole idea."

If John Henry wants to, however, he'll be able to check his energy savings online. groSolar was in the midst of choosing a data acquisition system to go in the boiler room and be tied to the Internet line.

Time was also of the essence during the installation phase. groSolar had 10 days to get the installation done during a Red Sox road trip. Another factor was that the Red Sox were anxious to kick off a public relations campaign.

The solar hot water installation at Fenway is part of The Solar Boston Program, a two-year $550,000 initiative aimed at promoting the development of large-scale solar energy market growth throughout Boston.

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Article Topics

News · Retrofit · Retrofit · All topics

About the Author

Tom LeBlanc, Senior Writer/Technology Editor, CE Pro
Tom has been covering consumer electronics for six years. Before that, he wrote for the sports department of the Boston Herald. Migrating to magazines, he was a staff editor for a golf publication and an outdoor sports publication. Now, as senior writer/technology editor of CE Pro magazine since 2003, he dabbles in all departments and offers expertise in marketing. Follow him on Twitter @leblanctom.


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