At Shanghai’s Disney Resort, a combined cooling and heating plant reduces emissions by 60 percent — partially by converting waste heat into energy. Disney also is building three new cruise ships that will be run on clean-burning liquefied natural gas when they head out to sea in 2021, 2022, and 2023.
But going green hasn’t always worked perfectly at Disney. For example, in 2015, when it first tried to “green” its bus fleet, executives thought the solution might be electric buses. But they discovered that electric buses failed to reduce carbon emission as much as using renewable fuels made with used cooking oil and non-consumable food waste.
While some renewable energy advocates would like Disney to do even more to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels, Disney’s leadership in this area is likely to encourage others. “What Disney is doing is an important part of the trend that’s changing the nation’s grid,” says Gregory Wetstone, chief executive of the American Council on Renewable Energy.
Just five years ago, very few companies were actively producing their own renewable powers, Mr. Wetstone said. But now, he said, “the most sophisticated companies are learning how to go out on their own and do it.” Of course, none can accomplish this without enlisting energy partners. Disney’s new facility in central Florida, for example, is a collaboration with the Reedy Creek Improvement District and solar project developer Origis Energy USA. Disney officials declined to discuss the financials of their renewable energy projects.
Also in central Florida, Disney — with the help of Duke Energy — opened a solar facility in 2016 that’s famously shaped like Mickey Mouse’s head. The five-megawatt solar facility on 22 acres near Epcot is made of 48,000 solar panels. Duke Energy sells the resulting alternative energy — enough to power 1,000 homes — to Reedy Creek.
In some cases, Disney park customers can already see solar at work.
At the flagship Disneyland Resort, solar panels sit atop the Radiator Springs Racers ride in Cars Land. The system — which opened in 2016 — generates electricity for the Disney California Adventure Park. The 40,000-square-foot operation features more than 1,400 high-efficiency solar panels and generates enough energy to annually power 100 Anaheim homes.