Citrus Hills Golf & Country Club in Central Florida has become the first golf courses in the United States to convert its entire fleet of electric golf carts to solar power. This removes the need for the electric carts to be plugged into electrical outlets every night to be charged.
The latest thinfilm solar panels were installed onto their fleet of 125 E-Z-Go golf carts by Gulf City Solar, a Bonita Springs, Fla. based company, along with their power management systems. Rather than having to charge them daily, the club charges the golf carts overnight only once a week, when the carts are on the course solar energy provides enough power for use by the golfers.
Unlike many other golf cart solar power kits which use heavy glass panels which can weigh up to 60 pounds or need a replacement cart roof, this system uses thinfilm panels, weighing in at around nine pounds.
According to Gulf City Solar, a golf club's electric bill for 50 electric golf carts used all year can be as high as $ 50k - $75k for a period of 3-4 years. Use of a golf cart solar charging system will result in significant savings on electricity, reliability on the courses and increased battery life. Because the sun continually charges the golf cart batteries while the carts are in use on the course battery aging is slowed easily doubling their life, and stranded golf carts due to battery depletion are almost unheard of.
Solar powered golf carts have been trialled at other courses with excellent feedback from fleet managers, with immediate cost savings.
"We have run the fully solarized golf cart daily for almost three months and have been very impressed with the performance," said David Gillespie, general manager of Pelican Nest Golf Club in Bonita Springs. "We charged it only a few times during the whole period."
Citrus Hills have only installed the solar panels on it's fleet of playing carts, but the technology is improving to the extent that it is becoming suitable for the demands of all golf course vehicles, such as the utility vehicles used by grounds-keeping staff.
"Solar is now a mature technology for golf carts and other slow-moving electrical vehicles." , says William Heckenstaller, a principal partner in Gulf City Solar, "We are in the process of rolling out solar-powered electrical utility vehicles with extra solar panels that enable them to go much farther than 60 miles on a charge. They can be equipped with 12-volt chargers that can run power tools on the golf course."
No doubt we will see more and more golf courses convert their fleet of electric golf carts over to solar power. For the time being Gulf City Solar's products seem to be at the cutting edge of solar technology, their ultra-light and ultra-portable flexible, thinfilm panels and proprietary power management technology operates more efficiently and therefore saves golf courses more money.