Golf Course Goes Solar

Photo-illustration: Pixabay

In a move designed to cut its monthly bill for electricity in half, Tracy Golf and Country Club is installing an extensive solar energy system scheduled to go on line within the next month.

The cost of electricity from Pacific Gas and Electric Co. — averaging more than $100,000 annually — is a major operational cost for the club, which, like many other golf courses, is trying new strategies to stay in business, explained Chris Jones, chairman of the TGCC board of directors’ facilities committee.

“Reducing the cost of electricity by half is huge for us at a time when every cent counts,” Jones said. “The club is making every effort to remain a recreational asset for the Tracy area, but it is a challenge at a time when not as many people are playing golf.”

Electricity, mostly required to run pumps at the course’s two deep wells that supply water for irrigation, is one of two major costs of operating the 18-hole course opened in 1956 at the south end of Chrisman Road.

The other large ongoing cost is maintaining the playing areas, and a new contract negotiated with Sierra Golf Management of Chowchilla has already reduced that cost, Jones said. The solar energy project is the second phase of TGCC’s cost reduction program inaugurated in recent months.

The 688 solar panels are being installed in three rows at the center of the course by 1st Light Energy of Manteca, which has installed similar solar energy networks at other golf courses.

The project is being mortgage financed, so there is no large upfront cost, explained Lisa Loscavio, a TGCC director in charge of golf operations.

Over 25 years, the cost savings of the solar power project could reach $1.8 million, she reported.

“Finances for us, as for many other golf courses, are a major challenge,” she said. “Before the recession hit in a decade ago, we had 400 proprietary members; now we have only 60 and need more.”

An equal number of nonproprietary members, limited in the days they can play, helps bring in additional revenue, and three years ago, the club moved from being a members-only golf course to actively soliciting nonmember outside play through websites and other media.

The number of nonmembers paying course and cart fees has gradually increased, and efforts are in place to further increase outside play, Loscavio reported.

Use of the course for fundraising golf tournaments for nonprofit organizations is being encouraged, and the restaurant, which serves breakfast and lunch, is open to the public, as is the bar.

Three high schools — Tracy, West and Kimball — use the course for boys and girls team practice sessions, match play with other schools, and tournaments. The course is also working with the city of Tracy to conduct clinics for beginning golfers.

The Tracy Chamber of Commerce touts the course as one of the recreational attractions in the Tracy area, and home builders point out the course’s location near new subdivisions being constructed or planned.

With construction of the solar panels nearing completion, inspections by the county and PG&E are the final steps that could lead to the beginning of power generation as soon as the end of the month.