R.I. golf club celebrates move to solar energy

SOUTH KINGSTOWN – The Laurel Lane Country Club on Tuesday celebrated its new solar panel clusters that are expected to eventually provide all of the country club’s electricity needs.

“I just wanted to make a statement,” Joe Videtta, the club’s owner, told Providence Business News. “No one’s ever done this before that I know of – at least not in my business.”

The public course in South Kingstown features 14 arrays of solar panels, which track the sun’s movement, in a field near the course. The panels are expected to start producing electricity in coming weeks, Videtta said.

The panels will allow the club to convert its fleet of gasoline-powered golf carts to electric carts, according to the Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank, which coordinated financing for the project.

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The country club features an 18-hole, par-71 course, a driving range, a restaurant and bar, a pro shop and event venue.

Over the next 25 years, the solar facility is projected to save the country club up to $1.3 million in energy costs. That’s much more than the project’s $500,000 development cost, project officials said.

Videtta said he started making energy efficiency changes at the country club, making use of National Grid Rhode Island programs to do so, and the solar panels were “the next logical step” in the process.

“The cost of electricity is a major cost for a business,” Videtta said. “I know what the cost is today. But I don’t know what the cost will be 10 or 15 years from now.”

The project at Laurel Lane is the nation’s first dual-axis tracking solar facility at a golf country club, according to E2SOL LLC, a clean energy company based in Providence that installed the panels.

The solar panels are designed to generate up to 121 kilowatts of electricity, the firm said.

Club and project officials celebrated the recent completion of the solar facility will a ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday.

Financing was set up through the state’s C-PACE program, which provides financing for certain projects involving energy efficiency, renewable energy, water conservation, or environmental health and safety improvements.

The project also received a $74,000 grant from R.I. Commerce Corp., said Infrastructure Bank CEO Jeffrey Diehl.

The bank has also coordinated financing for several other clean-energy projects around the state, Diehl said.

Scott Blake is a PBN staff writer. Email him at Blake@pbn.com.