Walt Disney’s Epcot Park Goes Solar


It’s been called the “Happiest Solar Energy on Earth.” Flying over Disney’s Epcot Park, you can’t help but notice the new solar farm in the shape of the iconic Mickey Mouse head and ears silhouette.  Calling it the “latest initiative in a long-standing commitment to environmental conservation,” the new solar farm in Epcot Park is designed to reduce the park’s carbon footprint as much as 50% by 2020. The new solar farm is part of Disney’s sustainability effort that began in October 1982, when Epcot’s Universe of Energy building installed solar panels on its roof.

Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow

The 22-acre farm is one of many visionary 2020 projects involving Disney World, Duke, and Reedy Creek Improvement District. Mickey’s “head and ears” solar farm generates as much as 5 MW of electricity. Doing the work are 48,000 solar panels embedded in the mouse structure. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, the power generated is equivalent to 1,000 residential rooftop solar installations. Disney notes that using alternative energy puts Epcot Park’s creativity to work in finding innovative ways to preserve the planet. The company’s goal is to provide customers with greater access to renewable energy. (For a time-lapse view of the site’s buildup from swampy forest to solar mouse, check out Nearmap.com.)

In addition to the solar farm, Disney has invested in a number of other renewable energy projects, including the conversion of Disney’s bus fleet to a cleaner diesel fuel. Known as  — R50, this fuel is made from the recycled cooking oil obtained from the park’s restaurants. Disney expects these combined efforts will essentially reduce its carbon emissions by nearly half.

Giant Switch Flips “ON” Solar Power

In a symbolic gesture, representatives from Orlando’s Walt Disney World Resort, Duke Energy, and Reedy Creek Improvement District threw an oversized light switch to signal the opening of Epcot’s 5 MW solar farm. The huge solar facility is just a “skip and a jump” from Epcot, and if you’re an astronaut, you can clearly see it from the International Space Station. Output from the farm’s 48,000 solar panels will not only help satisfy Walt Disney World Resort’s huge energy requirements, but it will also contribute much needed sustainable energy to many of the surrounding hotels that accommodate the park’s many visitors.

Reducing Disney’s Carbon Footprint

Disney’s new solar farm underscores its commitment to sustainable energy on a massive scale. The facility is part of the company’s dedication to reduce its net emissions. In 2015, Disney had reduced its carbon footprint by as much as 34% from 2012 levels, which goes in line with Disney’s plans to reduce that footprint to 50% by 2020. In addition to converting Disney’s bus fleet to a cleaner diesel fuel, the company incinerates nearly half of the trash generated at its various theme parks. All told, Disney expects to reduce its carbon footprint by 60%, which translates into far less waste ending up in area landfills.

 A Step in the Right Direction

While Disney’s solar farm won’t power the entire park, it is a step in the right direction. In Florida, where the sun shines most of the year, photovoltaic panels deliver only about 24% in a 24-hour period. That means that the facility will only have 6 hours to deliver its full 5MW output, or an average of 1,200 kilowatts of power in a 24-hour period.

 The Other Hidden Mickey

On a side note, Disney’s new solar array isn’t the largest “hidden Mickey” one can find in the US. That record goes to a 60-acre “Mickey Forest” in Clermont, east of U.S. 27, which is nestled in a burned-out orange grove. Disney planted the seedlings in 1992 and they’ve grown into the Mickey’s silhouette one can see in a flyover.

Posted on Wednesday, November 9th, 2016