Techno-economic analysis of PV-powered golf carts

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Scientists at Denmark’s Aarhus University have concluded that a 50-cart fleet of golf buggies could help to reduce energy consumption from the grid if each electric vehicle includes a 250 W panel.

According to their techno-economic analysis – which considered the deployment of solar powered buggies at the Los Naranjos Golf Club in Marbella, southern Spain – the return on investment could be achieved within five years. Annual savings of €15,607 would be possible with an upfront investment of €75,000, the researchers added.

Typical electric golf carts have an autonomy range of 27 holes after they are charged from the grid. “The main problem is to match the charging time while the buggy is stopped at the main house,” the research group said.

Usually, it takes around four hours before vehicles are recharged. Typically, they are not constantly available for use by the club’s members.

The academics placed a pyranometer on top of the canopy of the golf club to measure its specific irradiance in different locations. Through a second pyranometer, they also obtained the irradiance in W/m2.

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A pack of four batteries was located under the cart seat. “The selection for placing the batteries under the buggy seat was not only chosen due to the limited size of the buggy but also for safety reasons,” the researchers said, adding that the voltage of the batteries was measured to check the state of charge and evaluate the benefits of adding a solar module on the vehicle. “The batteries are 12 V each, totaling 48 the voltage of the buggy.”

The study considered the deployment of three different types of solar panels: a conventional crystalline silicon module, a thin-film panel, and a solar module designed exclusively for golf carts.

“To add a solar system on top of the buggy should be mandatory for every golf club, even if the weather is not as good as in Marbella,” the researchers concluded. Even the most expensive of the three options, the return on investment for customized modules has been estimated at five years. “The next 11 years – the period in which the investment is expected to run – will only accumulate savings for the investor,” the researchers said.

Solar panels can extend the total range of golf carts, while making more buggies available due to the reduction in charging times from the grid. The scientists have presented their findings in “Solar-powered golf buggies charging on the road“, recently published in Energy Sources.

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