Energy and Carbon

Energy consumption is the most significant contributor to a golf club’s carbon footprint and to its financial costs.  The demands of heating and lighting systems, and equipment, result in an average energy burden of around £15,000 per year for a typical golf club. 

The Energy and Carbon Resource Section contains information to help you your golf club reduce its energy bills and carbon footprint and looks at:

  • Energy tariffs

  • Lighting

  • Heating

  • Appliances

  • Micro-generation

  • Behavioural change

  • Maintenance vehicles

  • Carbon footprinting


1. Energy Tariffs

There are a large number of different energy providers in the UK each with their own range of energy tariffs.  Some energy tariffs may be more suitable for your golf club than others.  Remember also that you don’t always have to have the same tariff for each area of the golf club.  For example an electricity tariff which offers cheaper energy at night may not be suitable for the clubhouse where, in general, most energy is used during the day but may be perfect for the driving range where most energy is used to light up the range at night.  Seasonal energy pricing may also be of benefit for the maintenance facility where irrigation pumps push up energy use in the summer months.

A few tips on getting the best energy tariff for your club:

  • Make sure you review your energy tariffs annually.  The cheapest tariff one year may not be the cheapest the next.  The energy price comparison tool provided by Consumer Focus allows you to compare gas and electricity prices in your area for all energy suppliers and Consumer Focus also provide a list of accredited price comparison sites.
  • Collect information on your average, maximum and minimum annual energy use and seasonal or day to night variations in energy use so that you can find a tariff which best meets the needs of your club.
  • Take care to follow the correct termination procedure when switching supplier to avoid a termination fee.  See advice on switching provided by Consumer Focus.
  • Look for ‘dual fuel’ incentives - suppliers will often offer cheaper tariffs to customers who obtain both electricity and gas from the same supplier.
  • Since January 2010 it is much easier for micro-businesses to switch energy supplier, for example energy suppliers must now let micro-businesses know when their contract is up for renewal.  If your club employs less than 10 employees, consumes less than 55, 000 kWh of gas per year, consumes less than 200, 000 kWh of electricity per year or has a turnover less than £2 million then it will be classed as a micro-business.
  • Consider Green Tariffs.  A number of suppliers offer tariffs providing energy either wholly or partially from renewable sources.  In the past, such tariffs were often more expensive than standard tariffs with customers willingly paying a premium to help support renewable energy investment.  However, with the introduction of the climate change levy to electricity generated from fossil fuel sources, green tariffs are now much more competitively priced.  The Green Energy Supply scheme provides a list of certified green tariffs.
  • Investigate the Feed-In Tariff Scheme.  Feed-In Tariffs became available in April 2010 and offer financial returns for businesses that produce their own energy through micro-generation technology including solar photovoltaic, wind, and Micro Combined Heat and Power.  Renewable Heat Incentives (RHIs) will be offered from June 2011 and will provide financial incentives for businesses that generate their own heat through renewable micro-generation. 

Information on options for micro-generation of electricity and heat are explored further in the Micro-generation section of the EGU Environmental Compliance Website.

2. Lighting

Lighting is a significant contributor to golf club energy bills (accounting for around 50% of total annual consumption and energy bills).  Equally, it is one of the easiest and most cost effective issues to tackle.

Consider whether lighting is needed:

  • Maximise daylight where possible by removing blinds that block light even when fully open and make sure that skylights are cleaned regularly to allow maximum light to enter the room.
  • Consider adding light wells to bring daylight into dark internal rooms and corridors.

Evaluate and replace light bulbs and fittings:

  • Replacing incandescent light bulbs with energy efficient compact fluorescent bulbs or fluorescent tubes will reduce energy use by 75% - 80%.  Replace incandescent bulbs now rather than waiting until the incandescent bulbs blow, the longer the incandescent bulb is in the fitting the more money and energy is wasted.
  • Halogen spotlights are tremendously expensive to run.  Replace with LED’s and reduce operating costs by 90%. (Note: consultation with an electrician is essential before making this switch).
  • Not all fluorescent tube lights are the same.  40 W T12 bulbs use 32% more energy than 32 W T8 bulbs.  New T5 bulbs usually require an adapter to fit older light fittings but only use 28 W and have a longer life span and will therefore save the club money in the longer term. 
  • Fluorescent tubes fitted with high frequency (HF) fittings can be 20% more efficient than standard tubes.
  • Light fittings are needed to reduce glare but some light fittings can reduce light excessively meaning that a larger number of lights are required.
  • Don’t forget to consider the bulbs in display cabinets and above pictures.

Switch off lights when they are not needed:

  • Educate staff and members to turn off lights when they are not in use.  Appoint a light monitor to ensure all lights are switched off at night before the building is locked.
  • Motion sensors in corridors and hallways can significantly reduce the length of time that lighting is required each day.  Movement sensors can also be combined with light sensors so that lights are not switched on in bright daylight.
  • Light sensors for outdoor lights mean that security lights can be switched off automatically before staff arrive at work
  • In large rooms such as the restaurant or main function room, make sure that lights can be controlled differentially.  There is no need to illuminate the whole room if only part of the room is being used.
  • Consider whether lights in display cabinets and above pictures are really needed on a daily basis or just for special events.

3. Heating systems

  • Consider replacing old boilers - modern boilers are vastly more efficient than older models and will generally provide a short payback time.  The boiler itself is more efficient and the heating will be controlled by a thermostat and timer, rather than solely by a timer.
  • Consider replacing old radiators – choose new radiator designs circulate heat more efficiently and ensure that radiators are sized correctly for the room size to maximise efficiency.
  • Consider alternative sources of heat.  For example, a boiler fuelled by wood pellets can be just as convenient as a gas or oil fired boiler but is exempt from climate change levy and may become increasingly cost effective as oil and gas prices rise. Wood fuel is considered carbon neutral.
  • Ensure hot water pipes are properly insulated
  • Bleed radiators to remove air and ensure radiators are heated evenly
  • Evaluate your thermostat settings.  Comfortable room temperature is generally between 18°C and 21°C, depending upon who is using the room - young children and elderly members generally require warmer conditions.  If you reduce your thermostat setting by just 1°C you could save 10% on fuel costs.
  • Consider your timing settings – buildings generally take time to heat up and cool down. The heating system could be switched off half an hour before the golf club closes with no loss of comfort.
  • Individual radiators can be thermostatically controlled.  Turn down heating in rooms and corridors that are rarely used.
  • Consider installing fires so that one commonly used room can be heated without heating the whole building.
  • Many clubs have rooms that can be partitioned.  Ensure rooms are partitioned to an appropriate size for the number of people likely to use them and only heat the area in use.
  • Ensure that radiators are not blocked by furniture

 4. Insulation

Insulation is extremely important in increasing energy efficiency as it reduces the amount of heat lost from buildings in cold weather.  In warm weather, insulation works in the opposite way, keeping heat out of the building and reducing the need for air conditioning.

Ensure buildings are correctly insulated:

  • Ensure roof spaces are insulated to the correct depth (current building Regulations suggest a minimum depth of 270 mm) and ensure that there are no obvious gaps where heat can escape – for example ensure that loft hatches are insulated otherwise they will provide a ready escape route for valuable hot air.
  • Maintain older wooden windows to reduce draughts and replace with double glazing if necessary.  The payback period of replacing single glazed windows with double glazing can be quite long and other measures may be more cost-effective in the short-term.
  • Install cavity wall insulation – insulation can be pumped as foam into the voids between un-insulated walls.
  • Ensure doors (both internal and external) are well fitted, draught-proofed and, where appropriate, fitted with door closers
  • Rooms with high ceilings require more energy to heat them.  Consider installing insulated false ceilings to reduce heating costs.
  • Use heavy curtains to stop draughts and make sure they are drawn after dark to conserve heat.
  • Consider installing a revolving door at the main golf club entrance to reduce heat loss.
  • Seal gaps in floorboards to reduce draughts
  • If you have had a new boiler installed then air vents required with the old boiler may no longer be required and could be sealed.

5. Appliances and equipment

Your choice of equipment can make a big difference to your energy bills.  New advances in technology mean that old equipment is generally less efficient than newer models. 

The Energy Saving Trust provides a searchable list of approved energy saving products and the EU energy label provides a quick reference guide on the energy rating of electrical equipment.  Appliances are graded A to G for energy efficiency, with A being the most efficient and least expensive to run.

When considering whether to replace new equipment or deciding which new appliance to buy it is important to consider precise replacement costs and pay back times. 

5.1 The payback calculator

Download the EGU Environmental Compliance Website payback calculator to work out the payback time of purchasing new equipment.

To use the payback calculator you will need to know:

i. The initial cost of the new appliance

ii. The energy demand of each appliance in kilowatts (KW):

  • The energy demand of a product can be found on the product identification label or in the user manual or can be measured using a device that plugs in between the wall socket and the appliance plug and gives a real-time reading of energy demand.
  • For larger appliances, an energy monitor that fits around the electricity metre cable constantly displays the energy used in a building can be used to record the change in energy demand after that appliance is switched on. 
  • For appliances you are considering purchasing look for user manuals on the internet or contact your supplier to ask about energy demand of the appliance

iii. Your current electricity or gas costs per kilowatt/hour (KWh)

  • Your current electricity costs should be detailed on your most recent electricity bill.  If you have a variable tariff, e.g. with different costs for day and night electricity use an average figure.

iv. The expected number of hours the equipment will be used for each week.

  • Provide your best guess estimate as to how much the appliance will be used each week.  For example, assuming a washing machine takes one hour to complete a wash cycle and will be used three times a day this equates to 21 hours a week.

Once all the information has been entered into the payback calculator it will automatically work out the precise length of time (in years) that it will take before the efficiency savings of a new product or more expensive but more efficient product outstrip the initial outlay on the new product.

5.2 Energy saving gadgets

As well as choosing energy efficient equipment and appliances there is an ever-increasing number of gadgets that can be used to reduce the energy consumption of your existing appliances.  For example:

  • Plugs which operates via your normal tv remote control to switch television equipment off at the mains rather than just on standby.
  • A fan that fits on top of existing radiators and helps circulate heat around a room more quickly, thereby reducing the time that the radiator needs to be heated for.
  • A device that reduces the voltage of the incoming electricity voltage and maintains it at a stable level, allowing existing appliances to use less power or perform the same tasks.
  • Timer plugs which turn power on and off automatically.  For example, bottle fridges within the bar areas are often left on 24 hours a day while cool bottles are only required when the bar is open.  Timers set to turn off bottle fridges between the hours of 12.00 midnight and 7.00 am will result in energy saving of around 30%.

5.3 Behavioural change

Many appliances are left on needlessly when not in use.  Energy saving devices can help to save energy but thinking about how appliances are used and for how long can have a significant reduction in energy use:

  • Do not leave equipment on or on standby when not required.  At the golf club, this relates to all office equipment which should be switched off at lunchtimes and outside working hours and all other electrical equipment not required outside working hours, for example electronic bar tills.
  • Electric showers consume a considerable amount of electricity.  A typical electric shower in a golf club locker room could cost a golf club £600 per year in energy costs.  Educate staff and members of this and encourage them to have shorter showers.
  • Encourage members and staff to use the stairs rather than the lift
  • Consider the placement of appliances.  For example a coffee machine placed outside the clubhouse entrance will generally require more energy to run than the same machine place inside the building.

6. Staff and members travel

As a social hub, which brings people together regularly across a community, staff and member travel to and from the golf club can add to up to considerable mileage and fuel use each year.  Initiatives to encourage public transport use and carsharing could help to reduce the environmental impact of travel and could save staff and members money.

6.1 Encourage public transport use

Some golf clubs are located within urban areas where public transport links are good and simple measures could be taken to encourage public transport use, including posting up to date train and bus timetables on members noticeboards.  Travel by train or bus might be difficult with a bag of golfclubs to contend with but could be encouraged for when members use the club socially, especially at night.  If a bus route passes close to the golf club but there are no bus stops nearby, the golf club could lobby the local bus company to have a stop installed close enough to encourage members use and could publicise the new stop to members.

6.2 Carsharing schemes

For clubs with poor public transport links, inititiaves can be undertaken to encourage car sharing.  Members interested in a carshare scheme can be given the names of other interested members who live close to them.  Members of the carshare scheme could be given incentives, such as priority for tee times on certain days and reserved carparking spaces close to the clubhouse for use by carshare scheme members only.  Consider introducing secure bike lockup facilities too for staff and members who want to be really green.

When considering transport, don’t forget the golf clubs supply chain – choosing local products and services will reduce transport distances.

7. Maintenance vehicles

Maintenance vehicles are used every day and can use a considerable amount of petrol and diesel each year.   Small changes to the way these vehicles are used and the choice of vehicle can bring about fuel savings:

7.1 Behavioural change

  • Ensure vehicle tyres are inflated correctly to increase fuel efficiency.
  • Maintain vehicles regularly to maximise efficiency and prevent fuel leaks.
  • Heavy loads increase fuel consumption.  Don’t leave equipment or supplies in vehicles unnecessarily.
  • Schedule work tasks so that work requiring the same vehicle or piece of equipment can be completed together and in similar areas.
  • Do not leave vehicles idling unnecessarily.
  • Evaluate mown areas of the course – do they need to be mown?  Investigate the potential to introduce areas of rough grassland and other areas of less intensively managed habitat on the golf course.
  • Consider fuel efficiency when purchasing new equipment.

7.2 Alternative fuels

  • Choose diesel rather than petrol powered engines where possible.
  • Consider choosing electric vehicles.  These could be used in tandem with choosing a green energy tariff or on site renewable energy generation for maximum environmental benefit and potential financial savings.
  • Consider the fuel and cost savings which could be made by purchasing hybrid machinery.

Also consider bio-diesel:

  • Biodiesel is considered to be almost carbon neutral, i.e. burning biofuel releases only as much carbon as the plants grown to create the biofuel absorbed during their lifetime, though some carbon is required to harvest, process and transport the biofuel crop.
  • Biofuels are not without environmental problems. Biofuel production is small in the UK and most biofuel must currently be imported which may involve significant CO2 emissions.  In addition, it is thought that increases in biofuel production could put pressure on world food resources by taking up land previously used for food crops.
  • Diesel engines will run on a low percentage of biodisel without any conversion. 
  • Most diesel sold in the UK already contains a small percentage of bio-diesel as required under the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation
  • Waste cooking oil can be purchased from authorised distributors and currently recieves attracts lower fuel duty than conventional road fuel.
  • Used cooking oil from the clubhouse could conceivably be cleaned and re-used in a part blend with conventional diesel.  Bear in mind, however, that this could invalidate the machinery warrenty and that excise duty may be payable on the fuel produced.  Golf clubs producing less than 2,500 litres of fuel from waste cooking oil per year are exempt from excise duty but must keep simple records of fuel produced and used.

8. Micro-generation

Micro-generation is small scale generation of heat and power on site at the golf club. 

The Energy Saving Trust provide a Home Energy Generator Selector which should help assess which technologies might be feasible at your golf club site, though this is primarily intended for domestic situations.

Whichever technology you are interested in it is recommended that you use a supplier and installer who is certified under the Micro-generation Certification Scheme.

8.1 Ground source heat pumps

Heat pumps are used to absorb heat from the ground and transfer to a building to provide space and water heating.  This is achieved by pumping a mix of water and antifreeze through a loop of pipe buried under the ground.  The liquid in the pipe absorbs heat from the ground. 

The low grade heat collected from the ground is concentrated by the heat pump to provide hot water and space heating.  Alternatively, in warm weather, heat pumps can be used to provide heating and cooling and the same pump can provide both functions for the same building.  A full explanation of how the heat pump achieves this is provided on the Heat Pump Association website.

Ground temperature at depth is relatively constant throughout the year due to the insulation provided by the soil and due to year-round heat released from the earth’s core.  Air source and water source heat pumps can also be used but are less viable in the UK due to the low air and water temperatures experienced in winter.  An underground heat source has a more stable year-round temperature.

Key facts to take into account when considering ground source heat pumps:

  • Golf clubs potentially have a large area of ground into which a pipe loop could be installed.  However, installing pipes under the golf course may be too disruptive and the pipework may have to be buried deeper than normal to allow for future alterations to the golf course.
  • Pipes can be buried at a low depth and spread out horizontally or can be buried deep to form a vertical loop. 
  • Some electricity is required to provide a source of energy to move the refrigerant
  • Heat pumps supply up to three times more energy than they consume and can recover energy used to move the refrigerant and reuse this to heat space and water
  • The cost savings involved in installing and running a ground source heat pump vary depending on the fuel they replace.  Ground source heat pumps are not recommended to replace mains gas.
  • Ground source heat pumps are more suitable for buildings that have underfloor heating than buildings with conventional radiators
  • Buildings need to be well insulated for the heat pump to effectively heat the building
  • A back up source of heat such as oil, gas or electricity may still be required
  • The Renewable Heating Incentive system to be introduced in June 2011 will provide financial incentives to produce heat from renewable sources.

An analysis of the cost savings that could be achieved using a ground source heat pump and the advantages and disadvantages of the technology is provided on the Energy Savings Trust website.

8.2 Wind power

Wind turbines utilise the kinetic energy of moving air to generate electricity.  Wind turbines can be large enough to cover all the club’s electricity needs or may be small and targeted to specific tasks, e.g. charging batteries for a fleet of golf carts or powering lights in the maintenance facility.

The most important aspect to consider when considering a wind turbine is whether there is enough wind to turn the turbine blades quickly enough and frequently enough to generate enough electricity for your needs.  For small turbines, the Energy Saving Trust reccommend a minimum average windspeed of 5 m s-1 for the site. 

The Energy Saving Trust provide a tool that will predict the average windspeed in your area based on your postcode and could be a sensible first port of call when determining whether your site could support a wind turbine.  However, windspeed varies according to many local factors, including proximity to buildings and trees, and it would be wise to test the average windspeed at the exact location that you intend to install your turbine using an anemometer.

Key facts to take into account when considering wind turbines:

  • Your golf course would need to be in a sufficiently windy location with an average minimum wind speed of 5 m s-1 and have a suitable turbine site well away from the influence of buildings and trees
  • Wind turbines can be visually intrusive and could cause noise and glare
  • The wind does not blow at all times meaning power generation will fluctuate out of synch with demand
  • Unused electricity generated on a windy day can be stored in a battery for later use or sold to the national grid
  • Make the most of windy days and undertake energy intensive tasks when the wind is blowing strongly
  • Wind turbines do not have an unlimited lifespan and will need to be replaced –is your pay back period for investing in a turbine less than the predicted life expectancy?
  • Planning permission is likely to be required before erecting a turbine and if placing a turbine on the clubhouse roof make sure it is structurally sound and capable of supporting the turbine
  • The Feed In Tariffs (FITs) introduced in April 2010 provides financial incentives for micro-generation of electricity from renewable sources.

8.3 Solar collector panels – heat generation

Solar energy can be used to generate energy for water heating in buildings.  Solar water heating systems use solar collectors fitted to a roof.

  • Your golf club will need a roof which faces within 90 of due south, i.e. south east through to south west.
  • The further south in the UK your club is located the more light will be available and the more heat can be produced.
  • A hot water cylinder is required to store water.  Does your club have an existing hot water tank or space for a new tank?
  • Solar collectors will not generally provide enough energy to provide space heating
  • Solar collectors do not need direct sunlight and will generate heat even on a cloudy day
  • Solar collector panels do not have an unlimited lifespan and will need to be replaced – is your pay back period for investing in a turbine less than the predicted life expectancy?
  • A back up heating system may be required in winter to provide top up energy to heat water to the correct temperature
  • Planning permission may be required before installing a solar collector panel and if placing a panel on the clubhouse roof make sure it is structurally sound and capable of supporting the extra weight
  • The Renewable Heating Incentive system to be introduced in June 2011 will provide financial incentives to produce heat from renewable sources. 

8.4 Solar photovoltaic (pv) panels – electricity generation

Energy from the sun can also be used to generate electricity by utilising photovoltaic (pv) cells. The stronger the sunshine, the more electricity is produced, and shade at any time of day will reduce electricity production.  Solar panels will still generate electricity on cloudy days, though less than on a sunny day.

Key facts to take into account when considering solar photovoltaic (pv) panels:

  • Your golf club will need a roof or wall with a southern aspect and not overshadowed by other buildings or trees.  The Energy Saving Trust recommend that roofs or walls carrying pvs should face within 90° of due south, i.e. between south east and south west. 
  • The further south in the UK your club is located the more light will be available to generate electricity.
  • PV cells can be mounted on roofs and can be formed as large flat panels or smaller individual ‘roof tiles’ and transparent cells that can be used in conservatories.
  • PV cells do not require direct sunlight and will still generate electricity on a cloudy day
  • Unused electricity generated on a sunny day can be stored in a battery for later use or sold to the national grid
  • PV cells do not have an unlimited lifespan and will need to be replaced – is your pay back period for investing in a turbine less than the predicted life expectancy?
  • Planning permission may be required before installing a pv solar panel and if placing a panel on the clubhouse roof make sure it is structurally sound and capable of supporting the extra weight
  • The Feed In Tariffs (FITs) introduced in April 2010 provides financial incentives for micro-generation of electricity from renewable sources
  • Following the introduction of FITs, some companies are offering to install solar pv cells for free.  The golf club would benefit from free solar energy while the installing company would receive income from generation and export tariffs.  See The Energy Saving Trust website for more details.

8.5 Combined heat and power

Combined heat and power refers to technology that generates both heat and electricity simultaneously from the same power source.  Combined heat and power systems are designed primarily to produce heat, with some electricity generation.  CHP is considered a low carbon technology as it is more efficient than burning fuel solely for heating.

Micro CHP systems do not require any more space than a conventional boiler but will be more expensive to purchase and to install.

Most CHP systems use fossil fuel as a heat source, though bio-diesel could potentially be used.

The Feed In Tariffs (FITs) introduced in April 2010 provides financial incentives for generation of electricity through combined heat and power technology

8.6 Biomass boilers and energy crops

Energy crops are plants grown to provide fuel for heating and electricity generation and are able to deliver high yields from small holdings.  These crops could fit into the footprint of an existing golf course, providing a sustainable, low carbon and low cost energy source and diversifying the habitat available for wildlife.  Much of the cost of establishing energy crops could be offset through grant funding under the Energy Crops Scheme and payments received through the recently launched Renewable Heating Incentive.

8.6.1 The Energy Crops Scheme

The Energy Crops Scheme is a Government funded scheme, available through Natural England, which provides funding for establishing energy crops. The funding literature and website is mainly aimed at farm owners but Natural England do provide funding to other land users and have provided funding to golf clubs under the scheme.  The Energy Crops Scheme is open to new applicants until 2013.

Grant funding covers the cost of establishing either miscanthus or short rotation coppice (SRC) , either 50% funding for ‘actual’ costs i.e. the cost of materials and contractors and/or ‘on-farm’ costs, i.e. use of a golf club’s own labour and machinery.  Funding can coverground preparation, fencing, purchase of planting stock, planting, weed control and first year cutback of trees.

A few points to bear in mind:

  • The grant is available in England only and land must be registered with the Rural Land Registry in order to receive funding (land not currently registered can be registered).
  • The overall area of land available for planting must be > 3ha and individual planting blocks must be at least 0.5ha in size.  Planting can be phased over 3 years.
  • There must be a buffer zone of unplanted land alongside public rights of way, residential housing and utilities infrastructure.  These areas of open ground may also be included within the grant funding.
  • Applications are subject to an environmental assessment, including a site visit, and golf clubs would need to sign a 5-year agreement with Natural England.
8.6.2 The Renewable Heat Incentive

The Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) is a new payment scheme announced by the Government in March 2011.  Under the RHI, golf clubs could earn an income of up to 7.6 pence for every kWh of heat produced by renewable methods, including the burning of sustainably sourced wood fuel and miscanthus.  This income is index linked (i.e. will increase with inflation) and is guaranteed for 20 years.  The money payable through the RHI should help to offset the establishment costs of growing energy crops in the first few years of the scheme and making buying wood fuel competitive with fossil fuels in terms of cost.

Biomass under the RHI:

  • The RHI is available in England, Scotland and Wales.
  • Ofgem, will administer the RHI scheme and will deal with applications, accredition of installations, incentive payments and monitoring compliance.
  • Payments vary depending on the size of biomass boilers and are tiered so that the first units of energy generated each year will receive higher payments than subsequent units.  Boilers and installers must be certified under the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS).
  • Any business who installed a biomass boiler after 15th July 2009 will be eligible for the RHI, boilers installed before this date will not be eligible.
8.6.3 Short rotation coppice

Short rotation coppice (SRC) is an established traditional method of harvesting biomass energy over short timescales.  All broadleaf native tree species will coppice well but willow and poplar have the highest biomass yields.  Willow, poplar, ash, silver birch, and sweet chestnut species are all eligible for grant funding under the Energy Crops Scheme. 

Trees in SRC are densely planted at around 15,000 cuttings per hectare and are planted using specialist machinery that cuts the tree rods, inserts them into the soil and firms the soil in one pass.  Rods are planted in spring and trees can reach 4 m in height in the first year of growth.  New plantings are cut to just above ground level in winter to encourage the growth of multiple stems.  Harvesting begins after four years of growth using modified mowers/reapers and harvests can be repeated every three years.  Harvested rods need to be dried and chipped to feed into wood chip boilers.  The same tree stools can be harvested for 20 – 30 years without any need for replanting.

Herbicide should be applied to the land in the autumn before planting and may need to be applied after each harvest.  Organic fertiliser will need to be applied to the soil before planting.  Fertiliser is not recommended in the first year of growth but may be required each year to replace nutrients in the soil.  Application of fertiliser can be difficult, given the dense planting in the coppice.


The yield will vary according to the tree species in the coppice but, in general, with good site conditions and management, a golf club might expect 7 – 12 oven dry tonnes (odt) of wood fuel from a willow coppice per hectare per year.  One tonne of SRC fuel produces an average of 18.6 Gj/t, 66 – 78 % of the energy provided by a tonne of coal.

Wildlife benefits

Native tree species such as willow, ash and silver birch will provide the greatest wildlife benefits, particularly for invertebrates.  Bird species such as bullfinch, willow warblers, reed bunting and song thrush have been noted during periods between harvests, whileskylark,lapwing, yellow wagtail and snipe have been observed in the open habitat provided by newly planted and harvested coppice.  Local ground flora can develop in buffer zones surrounding coppice and beneath the trees between harvests.

8.6.4 Miscanthus

Miscanthus giganteusis a perennial grass native to Asia that has been grown for several years in the UK as an energy crop with good success.  Miscanthus boasts rapid growth, low nutrient and maintenance requirements and high biomass yields and can be directly burned for heat or can be processed to produce ethanol.

Establishing and harvesting a grass crop, rather than growing woodland coppice, may appeal to many greenkeepers but there are a few crucial differences.  Firstly, Miscanthus giganteusis a sterile hybrid and reproduces vegetatively.  This means that it cannot be sown from seed and must be established from rhizome fragments, planted either using specialist machinery or using a potato planter.  Secondly, as the latin name ‘giganteus’ suggests, miscanthus is a tall grass, reaching 3 - 3.5 m in height.  It is cut once each year using a forage harvester and can be baled using conventional equipment.

Herbicide treatments are recommended before planting, and after the first years growth of miscanthus. Following establishment in the second year, the dense canopy of the grasses in summer, and the leaf litter cover in winter, should prevent weed establishment.  Nutrient requirements are also low as leaf matter is returned to the soil before the stems are harvested.  Miscanthus is quite water efficient when considered relative to the biomass they produce but the crop may require irrigation. 

Miscanthus should be allowed to establish without cutting for the first year of growth and can then be harvested annually for up to 20 years.  Harvesting is undertaken in winter, following die back of the leaves, allowing nutrients to return to the soil and the moisture content of the crop to reduce.  The moisture content of the material is low (20%) and can be burned after harvest without further drying.


Miscanthus can yield up to 14 odt annually, which is higher than the average yield from short rotation coppice (max 12 odt).  However, miscanthus produces relatively less energy per tonne of material 16.2 Gj/t compared with 18.6Gj/t for SRC willow (58 – 68 % of the energy provided by a tonne of coal).  Establishment costs are relatively high, due to the need to plant as rhizomes but up to 50% of this cost could be recovered through grant funding. 

Wildlife benefits

Miscanthus is a non-native grass but is a sterile hybrid which grows slowly through spreading rhizomes and is unlikely to spread far beyond the boundaries of planting.  The grass stands provide a similar habitat to large native grasses such as reed canary grass and common reed and can provide nesting habitat for reed birds such as reed bunting.  Native ground flora cannot develop beneath the dense canopy of miscanthus but can establish in surrounding rides and buffer zones.

8.6.5 Sustainable woodland management

Many parkland and heathland courses have a significant existing woodland resource which could be sustainably managed through targeted felling and re-stocking to provide a supplementary fuel source for the golf club.  Using the trees as a fuel source would also give the club an economic incentive to manage their woodlands, improving the health, aesthetics and wildlife value of the woodlands on the course.

Harvesting the woodlands on the golf course would need to be carried out in accordance with a long term woodland management plan to ensure the trees are harvested sustainably: to guarantee that there will be future supply of wood and to minimise the impact of harvesting on the wildlife on the golf course.  Only wood sourced in a genuinely sustainable manner will be eligible under the Renewable Heating Incentive.   Woodland management plans can also be submitted to the Forestry Commission to cover all intended felling over the lifetime of the management plan, rather than the club applying for consent for each individual felling operation on a case by case basis.

8.6.7 Act early for the highest rewards

Renewable Heat Incentive payments for new applicants to the scheme will decrease over time to promote early uptake, meaning that golf clubs who apply early will receive higher payments than those who wait.  Any golf club entering into the Renewable Heat Incentive scheme in 2011 will receive the highest payments available under the scheme, guaranteed for the next 20 years. 

Establishing energy crops won’t work for every club as there may not be enough space available for planting, but each club could incorporate some element of biomass energy into their heating to take advantage of the Renewable Heating Incentive, either by carefully harvesting current woodland plantings or by buying in sustainably sourced wood from outside the golf course. 

9. Carbon footprinting

9.1 What is a Carbon Footprint?

A carbon footprint calculates the total set of greenhouse gas emissions (e.g. carbon dioxide and methane) caused directly and indirectly by the golf club in one year.  Direct emissions come running the central heating in the club house and fuel use in course maintenance equipment and indirect emissions come from electricity use, the production of all the products use by the golf club and the treatment of waste and wastewater.

9.2 Why calculate your footprint?

  • A carbon audit identifies the golf club facilities and operations that generate the most carbon emissions each year.  This allows the club to prioritise areas in which emissions savings can be made which should help the clubs to save energy, reduce waste and greatly reduce their overheads. 
  • The process of data gathering and critically assessing day-to-day activities at the golf club can help identify potential energy savings and ways of reducing waste. 
  • Golf clubs can repeatedly calculate their carbon footprint over successive years to monitor the impact of any changes to working practices or changes in equipment.
  • Assessing the impact of all operations in terms of metric tonnes of carbon dioxide allows direct comparison between different operations, for example the energy used to heat the clubhouse can be directly compared to the energy used to mow the golf course.
  • Minimising emissions reduces the golf club’s contribution to climate change and provides a positive story to publicise to potential new members and the wider public.

9.3 What should be included in a carbon audit?

An important stage at the start of any carbon audit is to determine the scope of the project, i.e. what data is ideally required and what can be achieved given time, cost and quality constraints.  This will help define what is to be included in the audit and, similarly, what is outside the remit of the project and does not require assessment. 

  • A framework for deciding on the scope of a carbon audit is provided by The Greenhouse Gas Protocol: A Corporate Accounting and Reporting Standard.  This is an internationally recognised methodology for carbon auditing produced by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development and the World Resources Institute.
  • The Greenhouse Gas Protocol uses ‘control’ (either financial or operational control over operations) as a means of defining a boundary for carbon audits. 
  • Under this remit, operations and travel outside of the golf clubs direct control but necessary for the golf club to function (e.g. the extraction of raw materials, the production of machinery, processing of foodstuffs, chemicals, sand, etc. and travel undertaken by delivery vehicles and staff travel to work) are excluded from the carbon audit. 
  • A golf club carbon audit should consider lighting, heating, general energy use and waste produced from all areas of the golf club e.g. from the bar/restaurant, offices, changing rooms, toilets/showers, the pro shop, the maintenance compound, and golf course.
  • In most carbon audits which follow the Greenhouse Gas Protocol methodology, customer travel is also excluded as most business has very little control over customer travel choices.  Therefore, membership travel can be excluded from a carbon audit.

9.4 Data collection

Data for a carbon footprint can be obtained by directly recording energy use at the golf club, by collating questionnaire responses from golf club staff and members, from utility bills and fuel receipts held by the golf club and published ‘conversion factors’ used to estimate the carbon dioxide emissions arising from energy use, water use and waste disposal.

The energy used and the waste produced by each golf club can be converted to metric tonnes of carbon dioxide (t CO2e) using The 2010 Guidelines to Defra/DECC’s GHG Conversion Factors for Company Reporting.

9.5 The carbon calculator

The EGU and GUW, with funding from The R&A, have launched a free carbon calculator which simplifies the carbon auditing process and is available to all English and Welsh golf clubs.  This allows clubs to enter simple data from utility bills to gain an estimate of their carbon footprint.

The carbon calculator is also linked tocomprehensive carbon footprinting and energy efficiency audits of three golf clubs in England and Wales: Alresford Golf Club in Hampshire; Conwy (Caernarvanshire) Golf Club in North Wales and Woodhall Spa Golf Club in Lincolnshire.

These three clubs were chosen to represent elements of Heathland, Parkland, Downland and Links golf courses, and with buildings built between 1905 to 1998, to ensure that a wide range of golf club set ups were covered. The clubs were also at different stages in their energy management, with one club keen to start reducing their energy use but unsure where to start and another club who was already monitoring their energy use on a weekly basis and trialling different types of energy efficient lighting in their pro shop.

The reports are available for other golf clubs to look at in the Case Study section of this website.