Golf courses are being replaced by solar parks

by | Dec 9, 2021 | Golf Courses

Image: creativecommons

Playing golf is one of the few activities that calls out for luxury. Golf has become a status symbol for those who have the financial means to do it. The squares themselves have become symbols: opulent, well-kept and with generous spaces where visitors can smash the balls.

However, the courses cause a number of environmental problems. Despite their “green” appearance, they rarely contribute to biodiversity and, in fact, often cause great trouble for native species because they are covered with short grass and are frequented by humans.

To top it all off, golf courses use a lot of water. Golf courses in the United States alone use approximately 2 billion gallons (7.5 billion liters) of water daily, averaging about 130,000 gallons (492,000 liters per day).

On the other hand, some see this as an opportunity to turn golf courses from environmental liability to environmental credit. As? By putting solar panels on top.

A 27-acre site in New York that began as a landfill and became a golf driving range in the 1980s was converted into a solar farm in 2019.

In a statement, Adrienne Esposito, executive director of the Citizens Campaign for the Environment charity, said, “This solar farm is what hope and optimism for our future looks like.” The non-profit organization has campaigned for the renovation of the golf course.

“We know that in the next 20 years the sun will shine, electricity will be produced and we will have clean electricity. We don’t know the cost of fossil fuels and maybe don’t want to know either. “

The move not only provided power for about 1,000 homes on Long Island, it also eliminated some of the herbicides and pollutants in the area that the golf course had used for maintenance. The move is expected to bring $ 800,000 in revenue to local governments.

Because of the recent advances in solar panel technology, this type of project is feasible. Solar panels have dropped in price almost overnight, and it’s not just the collectors; The prices for a variety of solar park components have also fallen, making solar energy competitive, although the fossil fuel industry continues to be heavily subsidized.

“I think New York is at a critical time in its history,” said Bryan Garner, spokesman for NextEra. NextEra is the company behind the solar park. “The country has really ambitious renewable energy targets and that is clearly a step in the right direction.”

While Next Era isn’t just a renewable energy company, it is increasingly focusing on solar power due to falling prices.

This isn’t the first attempt at converting golf to solar energy, and New York isn’t the only city that’s doing it. Rockwood Golf Course in Independence, Missouri, underwent a similar renovation. In Cape Cod, Massachusetts, solar panels were chosen as the “lesser of two evils” rather than turning the golf course into houses, which would have resulted in more traffic and pollution in the area.

“We like the fact that it is used for solar energy,” said chairwoman Patricia Kerfoot at a meeting on the project. “This is a city policy to increase solar energy as much as possible so that it will be given as much freedom as possible, which is part of our overall local plan.”

Golf courses, if you think about it, span huge open spaces, and that’s exactly what solar parks need. At the same time, the prices for renewable energies are falling, which makes them more attractive.

These are not isolated cases; A pattern seems to be emerging that is being driven not only by falling solar energy prices but also by declining interest in golf. Between 2003 and 2018, the number of golfers fell by over 7 million, and any prospect of an industry revival was dashed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The National Golf Foundation estimates 60 18-hole courses will be closed by the end of 2021, some of which will be replaced by solar parks.

Nowhere in the world is this trend more common than in Japan.

Japan has even developed a national strategy to replace some of its golf courses with massive solar parks.

This is surprising, because Japan’s solar power remains significantly more expensive than the global average despite falling solar power costs – and yet the government is forced to build more solar parks.

In Japan, which is looking for alternatives to nuclear energy after the accident at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in 2011, initiatives to promote renewable energies are welcomed and funded to a considerable extent.

Golf courses in Japan were created during the country’s inflated investment boom in the 1980s, but the craze faded over time. This is the point where solar energy comes into the picture.

Japan has made solar power a national priority and the country has risen to the top of the photovoltaic world. In addition to being a major manufacturer of photovoltaics (PV), Japan is also a major installer of residential PV systems, most of which are installed by Japanese companies.

Of course, the country turned its attention to golf courses and converted several of them into solar parks. The latest of these, a 100 MW solar system in Kagoshima Prefecture, has started operations, making it one of the largest photovoltaic systems in the region.

Rural golf courses in Japan in particular were seen as suitable locations for new solar systems. A wonderful example is a new solar park that was built in Kamigori, Hyogo Prefecture, on a former golf course connected to a steep road, that generates enough electricity to meet the needs of 29,000 local households.