Chicago Botanic Garden solar panels being damaged by golf balls

The Chicago Botanic Garden anticipates spending about $10,000 to repair a series of solar panels damaged by errant golf shots coming from the neighboring GlencoeGolf Club, according to garden officials.

“Golf balls are coming over and damaging our solar panels at a high rate,” said Beth Dunn, the garden’s director of government affairs, at the June meeting of the village’s sustainability task force.

Dunn said the balls have been hitting the panels at the nursery of the Kris Jarantoski campus (named after a garden executive who retired earlier in 2017) that opened in August 2015.

Dunn said in a subsequent interview that since the August 2015 opening through March of this year, 30 of the 160 solar panels at the Jarantoski campus have been damaged by the golf balls, with an estimated repair cost of about $300 per panel, plus labor.

She said there is more than just the condition of the solar panels to consider. Safety is also a concern.

“It is more of a concern of someone being hit,” Dunn said at the sustainability task force meeting.

The golf balls are coming from the 16th tee of the golf club, which is operated by the village of Glencoe.

Golf Club General Manager Stella Nanos said there have been discussions with the garden officials about the issue to try and figure out a way to address the problem.

“We had a meeting last year to discuss the issue at the garden’s request,” Nanos said.

Nanos said when the plans for the nursery were initially presented, village officials expressed concern.

“We let them know that was not a great location because there would be errant shots,” Nanos said. “At the time, there was nothing there, so there was not a concern about something leaving the golf course.”

But garden spokeswoman Gloria Ciaccio said in an email nothing was discussed in advance with the village.

Ciaccio added there are no plans to install netting at this point to prevent further occurrences. There is no other netting in place at the golf club and garden officials do not have a cost estimate for netting.

It was not clear when the repairs to the panels would be made.

More than 1 million people visited the botanic gardens in 2016, according to a news release on their website.