In the 1990's and 2000's there was a golf course building boom going on in Japan, but not surprisingly, that ended up leaving a lot of communities saddled with golf courses that weren't financially viable. So many of them are now closed and sitting vacant and unused, like one in Kyoto Prefecture, Japan. The Japanese firm Kyocera has decided to put one of these abandoned courses to a much better use. They will be converting it to a 23-megawatt (MW) solar power plant.
Ever since the Fukushima melt down following the tsunami in 2011, the Japanese government has been on a massive campaign of developing as much solar energy production as possible, due to a public outcry to close all of Japan's remaining nuclear power plants. In an effort to replace this generating capacity the Japanese government has passed a law stating that it will buy solar power generated for the next nineteen years at a fixed price. Ever since this law was passed, solar farms large and small have been springing up all over the country. With this golf course transformation, and a number of other projects Kyocera is getting in on the action.
By taking on the construction of this solar farm, Kyocera is building on its own tradition. The abandoned golf course where the construction is taking place is in the Fushimi Ward of Kyoto Prefecture, the same area where Kyocera created its first major solar energy research center in the mid-1970s. Kyocera proudly states that this new plant will be the largest solar power installation in Kyoto Prefecture. It is estimated that the new plant will generate about 26,312 megawatt hours of electricity a year. The power the new solar farm generates will be sold to the local electric utility, Kansai Electric Power Co., as part Japan's pro-solar program. According to Kyocera, this will be enough electricity to power approximately 8,100 typical local households, based on an average annual use of 3,254.4kWh per household.
The construction of the new solar farm began on June 28, and apparently Kyocera plans to continue this trend. They recently announced, that they will be creating an even larger 92MW solar generating plant at a site in Kagoshima Prefecture. This project will also be the transformation abandoned golf course. The Kagoshima site was designated as a golf course over 30 years ago, but like many of the golf courses built in Japan during that period, it suffered from under-use and under-funding, and eventually became abandoned.
This trend may not be limited to Japan. In the United States, cities in states including Florida, Utah, Kansas and Minnesota are also finding themselves in possession of golf courses that have ended up being unsustainable and abandoned. They are all currently having public discussions and considering proposals on how best to repurpose golf courses that have fallen into disuse, and transforming them into solar farms is certainly a popular idea. Abandoned golf courses are usually prime sites for this kind of conversion as they are characterized by expansive land mass, high sun exposure and a low concentration of shade trees.