Rising energy prices, warnings of the lights going out, controversial renewable policies; our future capability to power industry is constantly in the news but what impact might a changing energy market have on the golf industry and what can we do to prepare for it?
Fossil fuels and electricity produced from conventional means will become more expensive and scarce. Will golf be able to afford to carry on with current maintenance practices if energy costs double what from what they are now, or if rationing is introduced? The simple answer is, if golf remains reliant on current energy supplies, there is a great danger that the cost of golf will soar, or the quality of the product will decline as energy savings are made at the expense of course condition.
Alternative sources of energy seem to be the best political solution to the problem of a future with far less reliance on fossil fuels. Wind, sun and wave power are all coming online but are also all under scrutiny with regard both to their efficiency in producing energy and the likely cost of that energy to consumers – it is certainly adding cost to energy bills at the moment as consumers pay towards the development of the technology. Alternative fuels, such as liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), biofuel and vegetable oil, hydrogen cells, ethanol, water, compressed air, biomass and sustainably-sourced electricity are all in the pipeline, but will they become widely available and accepted while fossil fuels remain available, albeit at a grossly inflated price? Are alternative fuels the sustainable solution? Stories of environmentally sensitive land being used for biofuel production, and energy crops replacing food crops, make you wonder if the fossil fuel-based global energy business might not simply be replaced with another than causes just as much harm to the environment.
Golf course managers, like all other consumers, are very much at the mercy of the global energy supply industry. But can we do anything for ourselves? Yes, we can. The most obvious action is to make our energy use as efficient as it can be. This means reviewing current practices and, where necessary, replacing them with more energy-efficient practices. Ask yourself:
- Is course maintenance completed in the most energy-efficient way possible?
- Do you know how much energy is used when implementing management practices? Do you know the most efficient routes around the course for mowing, bunker raking, etc?
- Are mowing practices designed to minimise the ground covered when mowing and between areas being mown?
- Are work schedules efficient?
- Do staff return to the maintenance facility for short breaks, rather than taking their breaks out on the course?
Energy-efficient routines are not always the most practical, so they have to be designed to take into account play and other factors that will impact on them, but there may well be some simple steps you can take to make your routines more efficient.
Review your machinery. Does your fleet have the latest energy saving technology? Is it using the most efficient fuel available? Do you monitor energy efficiency and developments in this technology?
We can conserve energy in our workplace with efficient insulation, low energy light bulbs and by doing simple things like closing doors to retain heat and switching off lights and electrical equipment when not in use. So much of this is common sense, but how many of us pay attention to such things in our homes, where we pay the bills, never mind at work?
An increasing number of golf facilities are looking into supplying at least part of their own energy needs. Wind turbines, solar panels (photovoltaic systems), ground source heat pumps, biomass heating are all alternatives to fossil fuels in use at golf clubs today. Some make enough energy for their own needs and it is not unknown for golf facilities to be paid for any surplus they return to the national grid.
Future energy supply may be uncertain but there are plenty of steps that golf courses can take that will cut down on their energy use and improve their overall sustainability.
Examples of sustainable energy use include:
Kemnay Golf Club, Scotland
Swanston Golf Club, Scotland
Crail Golfing Society, Scotland