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Solar project at Broward basketball courts: Cooler players, more and cheaper power

Broward basketball court solar panel rendering 1.jpeg
Courtesy of Broward County
A rendering of the planned solar panels, which Broward County and Florida Power and Light will install above the basketball courts at Reverend Samuel Delevoe Memorial Park.

With less than two months of winter left, increasing temperatures are just around the corner in South Florida. So people who work or play outdoors once again will be looking for ways to beat the heat — from crews working on roofs to kids playing pick-up basketball games.

Broward County is planning to launch an innovative solar project at one Fort Lauderdale park’s busy basketball courts that will not only keep players cooler but also help cut energy costs to the nearby African-American Research Library and Cultural Center.

Through participation with Florida Power and Light’s Solar Together Program, two canopies will be installed over the basketball courts at Reverend Samuel Delevoe Memorial Park — designed to allow play as usual with heightened centers and lower edges.

Installation is expected to begin in June with plans to be completed by October. Once complete, the solar panels on the canopies are expected to offset 30 percent of the energy usage of the cultural center.

Dan West, the director of the county’s parks and recreation division, says the park’s courts were picked in part because they are so popular on the west side of Fort Lauderdale — meaning a lot of people will enjoy the benefits of the $900,000 project.

More shade means less heat stress, the biggest health threat from climate change. “We’re trying our best to look at existing facilities where we have the ability to use the solar panels that will not only capture energy but will save us money and can also provide some value for our customers,” West said. “It not only saves dollars but also can provide other amenities for the public.”

Solar trees and canopies have already been installed throughout the county, including at Paradise Cover Water Park at C.B. Smith Park in West Broward as the county works to meet its goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent by 2030 and achieving net zero emissions by 2050.

Broward basketball court solar panel rendering 2.jpeg
Courtesy of Broward County
A rendering of the planned solar panels, which Broward County and Florida Power and Light will install above the basketball courts at Reverend Samuel Delevoe Memorial Park.

In the United States, extreme heat is the deadliest weather phenomenon, according to the National Weather Service and South Florida ranks among the areas with the hottest average temperatures.

Public health experts have been pushing for more shade and cooling zones in outdoor areas. Many people who work or exercise outdoors may have already experienced some forms of heat-related illnesses, such as dehydration and exhaustion. Without any plans of action, those effects will only be compounded.

A report from First Street Foundation published last August projects that over the next 30 years, Miami-Dade will have the highest increase in local hot days.

Jennifer Jurado, chief resilience officer for Broward County, emphasizes the risks that increasing heat poses to the area. “When we think about climate change and its impact, we oftentimes think about flooding because that has been so visible,” Jurado said.

“But we actually know that an increase in temperatures has a far more immediate impact on public health. I think it’s an incredible investment and it supports exercise and recreation and outdoor activity while protecting from some element of heat exposure by taking kids and others out of the intensity of the sun.”

Jurado says there are about 40 solar installations around the area, but they are just a small part of all the efforts the county is making to reduce carbon emissions. There are more electric city buses, for instance, a nearly $20 million investment last year.

The county is also prioritizing reducing water consumption and landfill waste per individual.

This climate report is funded in part by a collaboration of private donors, Florida International University and the Knight Foundation. The Miami Herald retains editorial control of all content. This story was produced in partnership with the Florida Climate Reporting Network, a multi-newsroom initiative formed to cover the impacts of climate change in the state.