The Benefits of Switching Your Golf Cart to Solar Power

by Amanda L Taylor

With new breakthroughs in technology it has never been easier or more affordable to switch your golf cart to solar power, and the benefits couldn’t be better!

To make the best decision if solar power is right for you it’s best to gather some information on the various options available today, and the pros and cons of each. We all use our carts for different things so my needs in a system could be far different from yours, knowing yourself and your cart it shouldn’t be hard to decide which system is right for you once you have a little background on solar power and how it translates to golf carts. Aside from all the benefits you will gain, switching to solar power is about taking a proactive step in preserving our environment and the benefits to the earth should far outweigh everything else.

The EPA states “For every 1.0 kilowatts of electricity generated by fossil fuel power, nearly 2.5 pounds of carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere. Using solar power rather than fossil fuel power on the golf cart reduces the CO2 released into the air by 452 pounds per year.”

I’m not going to go into a long drawn out article on the benefits of solar power in relation to the environment, most everyone already knows most of our energy sources are not only bad for the earth but are also depleting at an alarming rate. So, you should already have an idea that solar energy is by far one of the best forms of energy as well as one of the fastest progressing.

Now, how does solar energy apply to running a golf cart? Solar panels for golf carts have been around for quite some time and were originally made from glass. Since they first came out there have been many breakthroughs in both technology and the use of different materials to not only more solar absorption but to also create more affordable easier to use solutions.

The original glass panels are still widely available, however they are expensive, heavy, and in my experience tend to break easily. Made in one solid piece they must also be shipped flat and therefore shipping on them can be quite expensive, as regular ground services can’t ship them! Glass panels must have direct “peak” sunlight to charge. So, after a certain point in the day or in cloudy weather they stop charging and you simply run on your battery power. Glass panels also have be twice the watts to compare to some of the newer films!

One of the newest and best technologies on the market today uses “Amorphous Silicon” to create a three layer cell. Where each layer is tuned to a different frequency of sunlight, allowing the cell to convert more of the solar spectrum into electricity. This “Triple-Junction” cell achieves a higher conversion efficiency and seems to provide extraordinary amounts of energy the more your cart demands!! The first or active top layer captures a portion of the solar spectrum, the remaining sunlight then penetrates to the second layer which captures another part of the spectrum, and then the remaining light is then passed to the third layer and final layer. This gives the cell the ability to convert more of the solar spectrum into electricity, achieving higher efficiency!!

Amorphous silicon cells are made up of silicon atoms in a thin homogenous layer rather than a crystal structure. Amorphous Silicon absorbs light more effectively than crystalline silicon, so the cells can be thinner. Also known as “thin film”, Amorphous Silicon can be deposited on a wide range of materials both rigid or flexible. Making it ideal for any curved surface or to allow folding. Amorphous cells are less efficient than their crystalline based counterparts, with a typical efficiency of around 6%, they are considerably easier and cheaper to produce!

From a golf cart standpoint I doubt anyone will ever see a mass produced crystalline product, if there was one created the cost would probably far exceed that of which a normal consumer could afford. Added to that, a golf cart doesn’t require as much energy to run as say a house, so a thin film technology produces more than enough energy for your carts demands!

Earth Care Products Inc. makes an awesome thin film Amorphous Silicone solar golf cart top that installs in minutes directly on your existing top. Voted one of the “Best New Products Of The Year” at the 2009 PGA Merchandise show in Orlando, now anyone can easily and affordable convert their golf cart to solar power!

The peel & stick design of Earth Care Products solar golf cart tops makes it easier and more affordable to go green. The unique silicon panels are flexible and lightweight, and almost unbreakable. Even a golf ball can not break them! This is the only solar golf cart system on the market that can make this guarantee. Switching to a solar power system will improve your carts range between charges, extend battery life, and more. All while doing something great for our environment.

The secret of this system is in the patent pending three layer “Amorphous Silicon” solar panels that are each tuned to a different frequency of sunlight, allowing the cell to convert more of the solar spectrum into electricity. This “Triple-Junction” cell achieves a higher conversion efficiency and seems to provide extraordinary amounts of energy the more your cart demands!

The Thin Film Amorphous Silicon Solar System was designed to charge a 12-24-36-48-72 or 96 Volt battery system by supplying a minimum of 1.35 amps constantly to a 36 or 48 Volt battery bank (extended tops 2-3 amps minimum). This new technology of two and three separate thin line panels has the potential to deliver up to 3-5 amps. In some studies people have went days, weeks, and even months without charging!

These revolutionary panels are able to produce watts constantly during direct sunlight, under artificial/fluorescent lighting, in cloudy or shady conditions, and even during rain or stormy weather! For every hour the top is charging in peak sun, the original charge will maintain its distance, one additional mile will be added when driving on flat terrain.

The kit easily installs in minutes directly on your existing top, increases the range of your vehicle, extends the life of your batteries, saves 452 lbs per year of CO2 emissions, and allows you to take advantage of great tax rebates for switching to solar.

Solar will also extend the life of your batteries by keeping them at a continuous charge! Active charging reduces sulfur content of the lead cells in batteries, sulfur buildup is the number one cause of battery failure. If a normal set of batteries lasts four years, the solar roof panel should extend the cart’s battery life an additional two years or more.

This system comes with a great warranty: 3 years on the panels and 5 years on the controller! The manufacturer even reports people using their panels up to the 20 year mark with no problems or replacements. Compared to the older glass style that always seemed to break, that’s amazing.

Additionally, As of January 1, 2006 an investment tax credit of 30% went into effect for utilizing solar power (IRS Form 3468 line 2b allows for a 30% tax credit for investing in solar). The solar panel and batteries are all considered part of a solar system on a vehicle. So, in addition to the solar credit you will be able to write off approximately $325 per year on your battery system!

If you have an EIN# and choose to write off your cart as a lease or purchase over a 5 year period, you will achieve up to 155% of your investment back! Or you can chose to simply take the deduction at the end of the 1st year, and receive the one time credit of 30%. In addition you will be able to write off approximately $325 per year on your battery system. Individuals will receive the 30% first year credit and the yearly battery advantages.

In addition, if you purchase a new set of batteries at the same time you purchase your solar system, it is our understanding that you get to deduct the full amount of those battery costs. Some states may allow additional tax credits and sales tax exceptions such as California, Arizona, and Florida!! Please check with your CPA and local state for more information.

Switching to solar power is an excellent choice that allows you the freedom to get more out of your golf cart, without sacrificing anything. You always have your batteries as backup when and if you should need to use them. Knowledge is power and solar can be confusing with all the options available, I hope this has helped give you a start in outlying some of those options. Make the best decision for yourself and the environment and, “Go Green!”

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