Power Equipment

GCSAA supports the ability of equipment operators at golf courses to use power equipment that is in compliance with local, state, and federal regulations regarding air emissions and decibel levels. While early adoption of battery powered equipment may be practical for homeowners maintaining .25 acre lot, for example, the average golf course stretches across 150 acres creating quite different needs for those tasked with maintaining the turf, trees and ornamental plants found within it.

Battery powered equipment provides pros and cons. Benefits include reduced emissions, lower decibel levels, reduced fuel costs and avoidance of fuel spills and leaks. Conversely, drawbacks and deficiencies – especially when considering use in a commercial operation – include limited battery life and run time, insufficient power and durability, limited charging infrastructure, regional power grid reliability, disposal and recycling limitations, and the overall cost of new equipment, batteries, and charging stations. Further, some specialized pieces of equipment commonly used on golf courses, such as aerator and top dressing units, as well as heavy duty utility vehicles, currently do not have electric alternatives.

Still, the golf industry has shown an ability to adapt and utilize new technology when the benefit of doing so is clearly demonstrated. A recent survey of GCSAA members showed that 47% of superintendents are currently using some form of electric equipment, most commonly leaf blowers and utility carts. Furthermore, the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI) reports that in 2021, “battery/electric equipment accounted for more than 56% of all U.S. shipments” of power equipment, including to the general consumer market.

Thus, policymakers should consider market forces already leading to adoption and use of battery-powered equipment. Additionally, contributions to air quality concerns, by industry sector, must be well understood and demonstrated by legislative and/or regulatory bodies, using reliable modeling and sound science**, before mandates restricting and banning various types of power equipment are pursued.

GCSAA supports the creation and funding of product rebate, tax incentive, and low interest loan programs that help offset the cost of new battery-powered equipment purchases, especially when conversion is mandated by law, or when due to regulation, the ability to purchase gasoline-powered alternatives has been restricted or eliminated. The costs of commercial-grade battery-powered equipment can far exceed their gasoline equivalents with industry research finding that zero-emissions equipment can have an upfront cost of as much as 2 to 4 times their gas counterparts.

The numerous challenges surrounding mandated adoption of zero-emission equipment often create unreasonable hardships for manufacturers, retailers, and end-users. Such mandates have the potential to result in an early market shortfall of products with high consumer need and demand, especially during a time of supply chain volatility. Adoption of such new equipment and technology should be market based and fully consider availability and variety of equipment, affordability, reliability, feasibility, and the needs of the end-user, especially those operating on a commercial scale.

While GCSAA does not support or oppose the use of any particular product line, GCSAA supports product choice and the ability of its members to source the various equipment types needed to maintain their golf courses to standards set by owners, customers, and members.

Starting with the state of California in 2021, a trend has developed in some states to pass legislation and/or regulations that would ban or restrict the manufacture, sale, and/or use of certain types of power equipment. Prior to this trend, local ordinances seeking to restrict the use of leaf blowers due to noise concerns, specifically, were not uncommon. But in 2021 the California Air Resources Board (CARB), with support from the state legislature, developed new regulations that would drastically expand the scope of equipment coming under greater scrutiny, specifically out of a concern for engine emissions.

As signed into law, California’s AB 1346 required the CARB to “adopt cost-effective and technologically feasible regulations to prohibit engine exhaust and evaporative emissions from new small off-road engines (SORE), as defined by the state board.” The subsequent CARB regulations focused on eliminating within the state the manufacture and sale of nearly all 25 hp gasoline engines and smaller starting with model year 2024. With some exceptions, this would include many types of power equipment used on golf courses, such as chainsaws, handheld grass and hedge trimmers, handheld and backpack leaf blowers, handheld pole pruners, handheld and ground supported edger’s, walk behind and riding greens mowers, select fairway mowers, verticutting and aerator units, pressure washers and snow blowers. Use of existing equipment would be allowed to continue, but production and sale of such equipment would be discontinued within the state.

Following this action, 2022 saw the introduction of similar legislation in Hawaii, New Jersey, New York, and Washington. Additionally, local ordinances – including complete bans in some instances – were proposed in San Francisco, CA, Montgomery County, MD, and Multnomah County, OR, for example, that could negatively impact superintendents and those operating on a commercial scale. Notably, and most concerning in each of these examples, no distinction was made between the needs of commercial operators and residential property owners. Further, some of the legislation went beyond California’s AB 1346 by calling for the discontinued use of equipment by a designated date, not just banning new sales.

Finally, policymakers appear to have some concerns for the financial burden of transitioning to battery powered, or “zero-emission equipment,” and various rebate and tax incentive programs have been considered. Funding levels for such programs, however, have been minimal or insufficient.

  • OPEI Small Engine Rulemaking Association