As soccer players run and pass and shoot during the World Cup matches, floodlights illuminate their play for thousands of fans. These lights, for example those in Dortmund, that are earning praise. All the energy used to power the six games in Dortmund comes from the biggest solar energy operation in soccer.
"It was especially built for the World Cup," said Hans-Martin Stork, the CEO of the FIFA stadium in Dortmund, referring to the congress center in Westfalenhalle, Dortmund, which supplies the power with its large photovoltaic system. "It's enough electric energy to provide all the energy for the games here, and for the media center."
Such initiatives play into the official FIFA environmental concept for the 2006 World Cup. Called the "Green Goal," the campaign aimed at minimizing the negative effects of the tournament on the environment and presenting Germany's efforts in pursuing alternative sources of energy.
The campaign is gathering accolades from environmental officials such as Achim Steiner, the new director for the UN's environmental program based in Nairobi.
"The winner of the World Cup tournament this year is the environment," he said. "Germany is the first host of the tournament to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and garbage. It is a world champion."
With each minute that passes, enough energy arrives on the earth from the sun, to supply us with energy for a whole year. About one-hundredth of a millionth percent of the sun's energy that hits the earth each day is enough to meet all our power needs, many times over.
The question is: how do we preserve this energy?
Herman Scheer, the chairman of Eurosolar, a European non-commercial renewable energy association, says it is important to use solar power now, to prevent a crisis in the future.
"Conventional energies are running out," he said. "First will be petroleum, for oil; secondly, in the next decade, it's gas, and coal will run out a bit later, and uranium, the basic material for atomic power reactors."
Still, it is not unusual to see the roofs of family homes as well as businesses in Germany fitted with solar power panels. The government encourages this by providing subsidies to those who use solar power.
But while solar energy might appear to be the logical and ecological way to go in the future, the high start-up costs cannot be ignored.
"I hope in the future that we will have more families and persons and institutions in our country and worldwide to produce such alternative energy," said Stork. "We need more of this. The cost of the panels must be reduced; and I'm convinced in 20 or 25 years, maybe 20 to 30 percent will be produced by alternative energy like this."
Green to go around
What has been noticeable during the month-long tournament is fewer cars on the street, fewer traffic jams, and empty parking spaces at the stadium. Many of the normal mountains of garbage are missing, thanks to the Green Goal initiative.
"We have seen empty parking spots in the stadiums on television," said Steiner. "And these cups with a deposit reduces the garbage tremendously."
In fact, the goal of reducing emissions by 100,000 tons has already clearly been reached. But then, the fact that two-thirds of all spectators are leaving their cars at home and more than half are taking public transportation is helping.
"Where there is a will, there is a way," said Steiner. "What Germany has done in such a short time has never been done before. And now we must make the next World Cup, in South Africa in four years, even greener still."