Last Year’s Country Clubs Could Be Next Year’s Renewable Energy Hubs

A Japanese tech giant is transforming abandoned golf courses into solar power plants.

An illustration of Kyocera's plans. (Photo: Courtesy Kyocera Solar)

Jul 20, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Anna Hess is an editorial intern at TakePart. She is a reporter for the University of Pennsylvania’s daily newspaper, The Daily Pennsylvanian, and mentors students in West Philadelphia public schools.

Finally, the lavish lands of country club leisure are being put to good use. In Japan, abandoned golf courses are being transformed into solar energy plants that will power thousands of homes.

Japanese electronics giant Kyocera recently announced plans to repurpose an abandoned Kyoto golf course as a 23-megawatt solar power plant. The plant will supply enough energy to power more than 8,000 local households.

Kyocera is also involved in a project to build a 92-megawatt solar plant on abandoned Kagoshima land originally designated for a golf course more than 30 years ago.

Japan serves as the perfect pioneer for this land-recycling innovation, as it’s inundated with golf courses left over from a 1980s real estate boom, and the country has proved to be a renewable energy spearhead.

Japanese golf courses have increased over the last 20 years from a few hundred courses to more than 2,000 today, according to The Independent. The land price and stock market surge made for gross overproduction, and today many of these grounds are going to waste—the country has seen a significant golf industry decline over the last few years, according to a study by the New Delhi–based market research company Ken Research.

Meanwhile, the renewable energy industry is on the rise as meltdowns like Fukushima give nuclear power a bad name. When a magnitude-9.0 earthquake and a subsequent tsunami rocked Japan in 2011, more than 15,000 people were killed as the Fukushima nuclear power plant melted down, releasing mass radiation and contaminating the ocean. The disaster powered down the nuclear energy industry in Japan, and the government followed up by subsidizing solar power in a big way, according to Bloomberg.

So, Why Should You Care? With the American and European golf industries on the decline as well, according to The Economist, this promising renewable energy solution could give the sport’s expansive manicured acreage a real purpose here and overseas. “In the United States, several cities in states such as Florida, Utah, Kansas, and Minnesota are having public discussions and considering proposals on how best to repurpose closed golf courses,” reads Kyocera’s press release.

The switch to solar power can help prevent the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and providing clean energy. Solar energy can also help to bring electricity to remote parts of countries where building transmission lines would cost billions.