Sebonack Golf Club

Sebonack Golf Club becomes first U.S. course to power golf car fleet with solar energy using SolarDrive technology

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Michael Pascucci, owner of the Sebonack Golf Club in Southhampton, N.Y. didn't get to be one of America's most successfull businessman by following the status quo. That's one way to explain Pascucci's decision to make Sebonack the nation's first course to power its entire golf car fleet with solar energy, using the new SolarDrive system.

SolarDrive roof at Sebonack

The solar-cell roof panels, which have been designed and engineered by Danish firm, SolarDrive, significantly boost battery life and make it possible for the electric vehicles to capture and convert daylight into sufficient energy to power them all year round, even on cloudy days. Furthermore, because the SolarDrive equipped golf cars charge while they are being driven, they are more efficient than regular electric golf cars.

By investing in SolarDrive's state-of-the-art technology, it is estimated that the golf club will reduce carbon emissions by at least 6.5 tonnes per year as a result of the fleet's reduced power consumption from the grid.

The solar-paneled roofs, which have been fitted to the club's existing Club Car fleet, will not only provide environmental savings by facilitating carbon emission free charging and driving, but will also lead to financial savings for the club. SolarDrive estimate that the consumption of grid electricity by the fleet will be reduced by between 50-75% and that the cars' battery life will be virtually doubled.

"Power costs are very expensive here on Long Island and are getting more expensive around the world," Pascucci says. "Why not take advantage of the free solar power we have on earth?"

But reducing the charging requirements for the club's 40 golf cars and lowering its electric bill, isn't the only reason Pascucci invested in the solar canopies, which are sold as an option on Club Car golf cars and can be retro-fitted to any make of golf car.

SolarDrive roof at Sebonack 2

"One of our guys pencilled it out and said we were going to get our money back pretty easily," says Pascucci, who sold a car-leasing business for $700 million in 1997 and owns a television station serving the tri-state area. "But even if the numbers weren't as strong as they are, I still would have done it. The bottom line is this. It was the right thing to do."

The owner of the Jack Nicklaus/Tom Doak-designed course (ranked No. 7 in Golfweek's 100 "Best Modern Courses" and No. 39 in Golf Digest's "America's 100 Greatest Golf Courses") calls the system "a major industry innovation."

Pascucci thinks Sebonack members will be impressed that their club is going green. "I think it's really a positive thing for our members and their guests to see that they're riding around on the sun's power and reducing their carbon footprint. It makes a statement," says Pascucci.

Pascucci first experienced the SolarDrive system while playing golf with Ernie Els at the Bear's Club in Jupiter, Fla., where Pascucci is also a member. "I played quite a few times with Ernie this winter, and he always had his solar car with him. It was amazing to me that even on hazy days the car's (energy capacity) stayed full" he says.

SolarDrive's Managing Partner, Peter Randow says: "We're delighted that Sebonack is leading the way with their adoption of solar technology for its golf car fleet and we're confident that other clubs in the U.S. will be interested in following suit.

"With the Obama administration's call to action to tackle climate change and use renewable energy, the impetus is certainly there for the golf and leisure industry to review and further develop their environmental policies," Randow added.

Randow believes that the financial support from federal and state government is a key driver in allowing organizations and individuals to answer this call to action.

"The significant federal and state tax incentives available in the US for utilizing renewable energy technologies, give those operating here a real head-start to making a difference. The basic federal tax credit for the U.S. is 30% of the purchase price and total savings can be higher depending on additional allowances provided by each state," Randow said.

Sebonack, which utilizes other eco-friendly practices, including an irrigation system that recirculates the water used on its greens; is also considering solar panels for other buildings on the 300-acre property. "I think this is just the beginning," Pascucci said.

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