The Sochi Olympics proved to be controversial, but they also showed that solar power integration is the new norm for high-profile events.
The Winter Olympics at Sochi’s environmental record is being debated– but one thing is certain: high-profile host cities must focus on environmental stewardship.
Sochi has had to scramble to upgrade its energy infrastructure, as their energy needs more than doubled. MarketWatch describes some of the solar integration:
The roof of the train station is lined with photo-voltaic panels, the “thin-film” kind that provide energy even on cloudy days. The same panels are being used in the Bolshoy Ice Dome, where the ice hockey games will be played, and the Sanki Sliding Center, the bobsled, luge, and skeleton track.
Among its green initiatives, Sochi pursued:
- solar power
- LED lighting (from spotlights to streetlamps)
- air purification/decontamination systems
- green roofs
This does not imply that everything is sunny in Sochi. A lack of diversity among power options– and an over-reliance on traditionally sourced electricity– has lead to power shortages (As National Geographic reports: “In the middle of luge teams’ November training sessions at Sliding Center Sanki, where they practiced supine sledding down a banked track at speeds near 90 miles per hour, the lights went out.”) Sochi neighborhoods have been upturned due to infrastructure upgrades that are running far behind schedule. Additionally, we’ve read about rampant environmental mismanagement, including illegal disposal of construction waste.
According to official estimates, putting on the Olympics directly emits 360,000 tons of carbon dioxide. Travel for spectators and judges add another 160,000 tons. Altogether, that’s the equivalent of providing electricity from a coal plant—the most carbon-intensive source of power—to about two million people for the duration of the games.
Leading scientists agree that it may not have been a realistic goal to begin with.
“Carbon neutral is an aspirational concept. It should never be used in a descriptive way,” the National Resources Defense Council‘s Allen Hershkowitz said.
Meanwhile, Brazil is readying for the World Cup, and they’re making sure to highlight their solar power integration.
Regardless of Sochi’s successes and failures regarding environmentalism, it’s clear that major international (and national events) will be expected to limit their environmental impact and maximize their use of renewable energy.