Golfing is among the favorite warm-weather recreational options with more than 24 million golfers in the U.S. and another 9.9 million who use driving ranges or indoor golf simulators. The golf industry estimates that there are 108 million people that play, watch or read about golf. In the U.S., there are about 16,300 golf courses at 14,300 golf facilities with 75% of them opened to the public. Opportunities for golf course superintendents to apply sustainable operations at golf courses are many.
Featured in Golf Course Industry magazine, the Laurel Lane Country Club in West Kingston, Rhode Island claims to be the only golf club that is totally solar powered in New England. The cost of running the irrigation system, facility lighting and all of their electrical needs are offset on electric bills by the solar system.
This 146.16-kW solar system at Laurel Lanes is a net-zero project that wipes out their entire electric utility bill. AllEarth Renewables (AER) supplied the 14 dual-axis trackers to E2Sol, LLC, located in RI. The system consists of 336 SunPower 435W modules and ABB inverters, which add up to the country club being 100% solar powered since 2016. Anthony Baro, Managing Principal at E2SOL LLC (www.E2SOL.com) said that this solar project received a cash grant incentive from Commerce RI and received 100% financing from the C-PACE program.
The owner of Laurel Lanes, Joseph Videtta, proudly said “every month we produce more electricity than we use. I love it. We have 180 acres. We love the environment. We also keep open spaces throughout the country club natural for milkweed to grow and purple Martin’s to nest. Together we are making the world a better place.”
Videtta is also the owner of two other golf clubs in Rhode Island. One of them will be going 100% solar-powered later this year. Solar sustainability in RI does not end here. Joe’s successful example set the stage for his friend who owns Cranston Country Club in RI. They will soon be 100% solar-powered with a similar system as Laurel Lanes. They will be breaking ground in July to become net-zero energy in 2020.
Electric golf carts are another option that can become popular as these vehicles save energy, are quieter than gas-powered carts, and have no exhaust. Electric carts such as MOTO Electric Vehicles cost less to run and maintain (no oil changes or tune ups required), but they may require recharging and access to electricity if used more than a few hours. Electric golf carts start at $5000 and gas cart prices begin at $4,000, but there are options that go to $15,000.
Other sustainable operational areas for golf course operations include the energy and water conservation associated with irrigation. The cost of course maintenance such as lawn mowing and the use of fertilizer and pesticides are expensive aspects of the operation that can incorporate environmentally-sensitive practices to reduce the course’s environmental footprint. Some of the suggestions provided in Making Your Golf Course Greener: A Handbook for Golf Course Managers prepared by Christopher Moore for the NH Department of Environmental Services are low or no cost while others are more involved. The process of becoming a more sustainable business is a continuous endeavor and golf courses are in a constant process of increasing efficiencies, reducing their generation of waste and reducing operating costs and liabilities.
Roger Lohr is the recreational editor for Green Energy Times and owner of XCSkiResorts.com.