The verdant green spreads out on the sun-drenched expanse. The teeing ground sets up a challenge against the fairway, the rough, and other hazards. Ahead beckons the flagstick and hole, toying with you in a competitive glare against the piercing sun. Beyond the green lie solar panels, stretching out in sturdy patterns — wait! Solar panels? Yes, golf courses around the world are offsetting the major expense of electricity by installing solar arrays.
And there’s also a sense that these stewards are being forward-thinking and respectful with eco-friendly practices. It’s a win-win situation for economics, public relations, and the environment.
Model Solar Golf Courses in the US
When developer Bill Collins and some investors bought a 63-acre foreclosed cherry farm in 2011, the idea was always to integrate solar. Michigan’s Northport Creek Golf Course Phase I saw the installation of 16 12-panel units that annually produce 64,000 kilowatt-hours, enough electricity to power 7 average-sized homes. “They wanted to find out how much energy it would require to run the irrigation system,” McCann told Golf Course Industry magazine. “They then engineered it back to see how much energy they would have to produce.” Phase II saw the installation of two arrays of 48 solar panels with computer tracking that moves with the sun, recalibrating every 5 minutes. Designed to handle the electrical needs of the clubhouse and the electric golf carts, Phase II generates another 21,000 kilowatt-hours. McCann said the total cost of installation of the solar panels was $210,000. Northport Creek doesn’t have electrical storage capabilities on site, so they use a bi-directional meter that puts the electricity it generates back into the Consumers Energy grid. “Last year our utility bill was $1,500,” McCann said. “Every year we’re trying to get that lower and lower.”
The Venice East Golf Course says it’s the first golf course on the west coast of Florida to use solar power. They expect to save $100,000 over the next 20 years and help keep the fairway green. “They won’t come back to play if the course looks bad. They’ll go find a golf course that’s in better shape,” Carl Ford, president of the Venice East Golf Club Association, explained to WTSP 10 News. Keeping greens healthy requires expensive regular watering, but the Venice East Golf Club’s former electric bill of $400 a month is a thing of the past, now that they’ve installed solar panels to run the pump that uses reclaimed water for its irrigation system.The golf course will recoup the $22,000 installation cost in 5 years. The solar panels can withstand winds of up to 160 mph and hail as big as an inch. The course also plans to switch to the sun to power its golf carts over the next few years.
Joe Videtta, co-owner of Laurel Lane Country Club in West Kingston, RI, told Golf Course Industry magazine that he’s installed 14 solar arrays near the course’s 8th, 9th, and 11th holes.The solar fully powers every aspect of his club, from the sprinkler system to the lights in the clubhouse. He believes his 18-hole daily fee course is the only totally solar-powered golf club in New England. Videtta feels that the solar arrays accomplish multiple purposes — to be a good steward of the land, to lessen his course’s carbon footprint, and to make a significant impact on his energy bill. The array was purchased from All-Earth Solar, a Vermont-based firm, and installed by general contractor E2Sol/Efficient Energy Solutions, which has offices in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Florida. The units came online in late 2018.
Golf Courses Go Green — Again — in Japan
Abandoned golf courses started to emerge in Japan in 2015 as the economy there experienced a downturn. The courses that were built during the 1980s real estate boom were significantly affected when golf’s popularity fell 40% as consumers pared down their budgets. Instead of being leveled for development, however, some of the vast open former golf spaces were repurposed for solar installations. The first 23 megawatt golf course project was designed to produce enough power for around 8,000 homes. Renewable energy initiatives are being welcomed in Japan, which has been looking for alternatives to nuclear energy after the 2011 Fukushima disaster.
A small-but-growing number of golf courses are now turning to solar energy systems to either directly power their operations or feed electricity into the local utility’s grid in return for offsets on their electrical bill. Is it time for you to advocate for your favorite local course to make the switch to solar?