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Disney theme parks stride in the direction of solar

Posted by Alison Vickers on 28 August 2018 at 11:18 am

Last year we brought you news of the UK’s first eco-friendly theme park here in North Wales. GreenWood Forest features an innovative ‘people powered’ rollercoaster – using the weight of people queuing to power its exploits around the track - and a solar powered ride the ‘SolarSplash’.  This year we are pleased to report on what the biggest theme park group in world is doing as the business case for ‘going green’ becomes ever clearer.

According to the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA), Walt Disney Attractions is the biggest theme park group in the world with their parks attracting over 150 million visitors a year. Of the top 10 individual theme parks in the world, four of Disney’s parks in Florida hit the list making this a hot spot for action.

EPCOT (Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow)

The EPCOT Park was intended, in Walt’s original vision, to be a futuristic model community based upon principles of communal living, with no private ownership or cars and huge greenhouses which would produce much of the food for the park. Although much of this vision is still to be realised, it appears that Disney have been steadily improving EPCOT’s sustainability which makes it stand out as a pioneering attraction.

So, how then, is this being done? Well, in 2016 Disney unveiled a 22-acre solar farm in Orlando near to EPCOT. And, you guessed it, it’s in the shape of Mickey Mouse’s head!

It comprises of 48,000 solar PV panels which provide electricity to power their theme parks, as well as the Disney hotels.

This has been followed by an announcement in early 2018 that another solar farm will be built - this time near to Animal Kingdom, potentially dwarfing the Mickey Mouse array! This project will encompass 270 acres, with over 518,000 PV panels, expected to generate 120,000 MW hours of electricity a year.  This is expected to power two of the theme parks on its own and aims to ensure that up to 25% of Disney’s power will come via solar energy.

The project also aims to be green in another totally different way. This solar farm will be designed with ‘rich wildflowers and vegetation’ to be ‘pollinator friendly’. Disney hopes that this will help to stop the decline of almost a dozen threatened species including butterflies, bees and other insects.

What about the birds?

Another species that is being given a helping hand by Disney are Purple Martins. There are around 19 bird ‘resorts’ located across Disney’s sites including some hotels and the EPCOT park. They house around 100 pairs of Purple Martins during the breeding season before they travel around 3,000 miles away for the winter season. Conservation experts at Disney monitor the nests and record information about the species during their stay. All of this is a great help to our winged friends!

It’s clear that Disney are certainly throwing a lot of promotion behind their environmental attempts. Do you think this is a genuine attempt to ‘go green’? They certainly have a lot of sun in Florida and so there is no reason why they shouldn’t try to take advantage of this natural and cost effective source of energy. Films such as ‘Wall-E’ have shown that there is definitely an awareness of environmental issues within the Disney organisation and with their power and reach, it would be good to see them go bigger and bolder with their actions.

 

About the author: Alison joined The National Energy Foundation in 2017 as a Households and Communities Project Officer. With a BA in English and Politics and an MA in Environmental Politics from Keele University, Alison plays a key role in the delivery of the Better Housing Better Health service andGawcott Solar - two charitable projects coordinated by The Foundation. 

If you have a question about anything in the above blog, please ask it in the comments section below.

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