Image: creativecommons

Golf courses are being replaced by solar farms

Image: creativecommons

Playing golf is one of the few activities that screams ‘luxury.’ Golf has become a status symbol for those with the financial means to partake. The courses themselves have become emblematic: opulent, well-kept, and with spacious places where visitors may smash the balls.

However, the courses cause a number of environmental issues. Despite their “green” appearance, they rarely contribute to biodiversity, and in fact, because they’re covered in short grass and visited by humans, they frequently cause major difficulties for local species.

Golf courses, to make matters worse, use a lot of water. Golf courses in the United States alone use approximately 2 billion gallons (7.5 billion litres) of water every day, average around 130,000 gallons (492,000 litres per day).

Some, on the other hand, see this as a chance to transform golf courses from an environmental liability to an environmental asset. How? By putting solar panels on top of them.

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

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

“We know over the next 20 years, the sun will shine, the power will be produced and we will have clean power. We don’t know, and we may not want to know, the cost of fossil fuels.”

The move not only provided electricity for about 1,000 Long Island homes, but it also eliminated some herbicides and pollutants in the area, which the golf course had been using for maintenance. The move is expected to produce $800,000 in revenue for local governments.

Because of recent advancements in solar panel technology, this type of project is feasible. Solar panels have dropped in price nearly overnight, and it’s not just the panels; a variety of solar farm components have also dropped in price, allowing solar energy to compete even as the fossil fuel industry continues to be highly subsidised.

“I think New York is at a critical time in its history,” NextEra spokesman Bryan Garner said. NextEra is the company behind the solar farm. “The state has had really ambitious renewable energy goals, and this is clearly a step in the right direction.”

Although Next Era is not solely a renewable energy firm, it is increasingly focusing on solar energy due to lowering pricing.

This isn’t the first effort converting golf into solar energy, and New York isn’t the only city where it’s taking place. The Rockwood Golf Course in Independence, Missouri, has undergone a similar makeover. Solar panels were chosen as the “lesser of two evils” in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, as opposed to turning the golf course into homes, which would have resulted in greater traffic and pollution in the area.

“We like the fact that it will be used for solar,” said Chairman Patricia Kerfoot at A meeting ON THE PROJECT. “That is a policy of the town to increase solar as much as possible, that it will keep it open space, which is part of our local comprehensive plan, as much as possible.”

When you think about it, golf courses span enormous swaths of open ground, which is exactly what solar farms require. At the same time, renewable energy’s prices are falling, making it a more appealing option.

These aren’t individual incidents; a pattern appears to be building, fueled not only by falling solar energy prices, but also by waning interest in golf. Between 2003 and 2018, the number of golfers fell by over 7 million, and any prospects of reviving the industry were dashed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The National Golf Foundation estimated the closure of 60 18-hole courses by the end of 2021, with solar farms replacing some of them.

However, nowhere on the planet is this trend more common than in Japan.

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

This is surprising because, despite falling solar energy costs, Japan’s solar electricity remains significantly more expensive than the worldwide average — and yet the government feels compelled to build more solar farms.

Renewable energy initiatives are welcomed and substantially funded in Japan, which is looking for alternatives to nuclear energy following the Fukushima nuclear power plant accident in 2011.

Golf facilities in Japan were created during the country’s inflated-asset boom in the 1980s, but enthusiasm waned over time. This is the point at which solar energy enters the picture.

Japan has made solar energy a national priority, and the country has risen to the top of the photovoltaics world. In addition to being a significant manufacturer of photovoltaics (PV), Japan is a major installer of residential PV systems, with the majority of them being installed by Japanese companies.

Naturally, the country turned its attention to golf courses, converting several of them into solar farms. The most recent of these, a 100 MW solar facility in Kagoshima Prefecture, has began operations, making it one of the region’s largest photovoltaic facilities.

Rural golf courses in Japan, in particular, were deemed suitable locations for new solar arrays. A wonderful example is a new solar farm erected in a former golf course connected up a steep road in Kamigori, Hyogo prefecture, generating enough power to cover the demands of 29,000 local homes.