Japan is starting to convert old, abandoned golf courses into solar energy plants as a means of meeting its future energy needs.

In the late 1980s, as the global economy recovered from the stock market crash of 1987, there was a real estate boom in Japan. This led to an excessive number of gold courses being built in the 1990s and 2000s, in a gold rush trying to cash-in on the country's famously expensive country club memberships.

But Japan then ended up with more golf courses that it needed, and they started to be abandoned.

Flash forward a few years, following the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear disaster caused by the 2011 tsunami, and the nation has had to work out a way of roughly doubling its renewable power supply by 2030.

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Japan had already started building solar plants that floated on the water, so converting the surfaces of gold courses into solar farms was a natural progression.

Kyocera and its partners responsible for energy announced last week they have commenced construction of a 23-megawatt solar plant located on an old golf course in the Kyoto prefecture. They expect it to go live by September 2017, and for it to generate enough power for approximately 8,100 typical local households.

In May, Kyocera also publicised an even larger project. They will start building it in the Kagoshima prefecture next year, using land that was originally set aside for a gold course more than 30 years ago, but which has since lain abandoned. That plant is planned to be of 92-megawatts - enough to power 30,500 households. Other companies such as Pacifico Energy in Tokyo are also competing to build solar plants on golf courses.

The trend is spreading internationally, too. Patronage for golf courses in the United States is decreasing, because of a declining interest in the sport. There are plans to replace some of them with solar plants, before they go out of business, in New York, Minnesota and elsewhere.

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