The Greenest Epcot?

It’s been a hectic weekend at casa de Manifesto.  Lots of craziness going on, with so many things in flux, that my normal tradition of writing my post first thing Monday morning was thrown out the window.

That’s ok.  This rant is going to be a bit of a sidetrack anyway.  My regularly scheduled post about, well, to be honest, I hadn’t figured out what I was going to write about anyway.  It happens more often than not that I have a vague idea of what I am going to write about before I sit down to write, I pull together thoughts I’ve put out elsewhere, I throw them away and write something new about them, I contradict myself, etc.  It’s been working well so far.

This week is different.  I received a comment from Galen on my last post that got my mind in motion:

Why not shoot for really lofty goals? Why not go for 100% renewable power for EPCOT, WDW, etc, the whole enchilada! Seriously, even if they have to buy green power credits (not sure if that’s even possible, however, in Florida) or carbon offsets, plus producing as much as possible on site, EPCOT could begin to lead the way once again in energy production. Part of what would make that feasible is reducing the energy use, and green changes would definitely make that more likely.

 

You know what, why not?  It’s not like Disney is going to take any of this blog to heart.  They’re not going to really read this thing and say “Eureka, this is it!”  So, while I’ll still likely try and keep to my relatively sane (ha!) plans for the most part, maybe it’d be fun to stretch the muscles a little and go nuts on an idea.

Once again, let’s put out that I am not in any sort of profession that would allow me to really speak from a point of mastery here.  I have no idea if any of these concepts or ideas are plausible or their relative effectiveness.  I might be suggesting we rip apart everything and gain a net energy savings equivalent to a store-brand 9-volt battery.  Still, I think that if Disney really wanted to, and wanted to make the commitment to it, they could find the right people to consult and bring in real, workable solutions.

So, if we wanted to potentially shoot for a Epcot, or maybe smaller, just a Future World that was 100% renewable energy.  “Off the Grid” so to speak, what might that look like.

Well, first let’s say that Disney is already investing in renewable energy, and more than just the roof of Ellen’s Energy Mildly-Amusing-Attraction.  There is currently a 5 mega-watt solar farm beginning construction on WDW property (run by Duke Energy, power sold to Reedy Creek).  A 5.4 mega-watt biogas facility also turns food scraps, cooking grease, and biosolids into power.  I’m sure that there are more solutions that they have that I am not aware of, and 10 minutes of Googling is all I have in me this morning.

How could Future World take this forward? 

Well, let’s take a look at a few ideas.  First, quoting the comment again:

A green roof over WoL, solar over UoE, fine, but why not cover the whole dadgum parking lot with a solar farm? You get to park your car under the power plant, and it can stay cooler during those hot Florida days.

This could be an excellent idea.  I know Disney is averse to parking structures and underground parking may be one of those things that they deem to claustrophobic, but it probably is the best solution here to generate the most energy.  All that parking space covered in more solar arrays.  Heck, maybe they can try and build in a emissions collection and filtration system for all the exhaust for all the cars driving under there.  Or it could just be above-ground garage parking with solar panels on top.

If we're doing a parking garage, let's do it wisely

If we're doing a parking garage, let's do it wisely

Still, there might be other solutions possible for the parking lot.  While it would see less benefit on busy days, what about investing in this technology. 

Imagine these winding all around WDW

Imagine these winding all around WDW

This Popular Science article speaks of a company working on solar roadways.  A partnership with Disney to help them gain capital and invest in developing and implementing this technology would be huge. 

Each 12-by-12-foot Solar Roadway panel would produce about 7,600 watt-hours a day, based on an average of four hours of sunlight. At that rate, a one-mile stretch of four-lane highway could power about 500 homes. “If we could ever replace all the roads in the U.S., then, yeah, we would produce more electricity than we use as a nation,” says Brusaw, an electrical engineer who completed his first prototype panel in February with funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation.
— Popular Science article

 

According to DisneyByTheNumbers.com, there are 160 lane miles of roads maintained by WDW.  Taking the larger, longer-term goal of replacing all roads at WDW with solar roadways, starting at Epcot makes sense.  The roads leading into Epcot being made of these photovoltaic sheets would signal such a grand entryway.  Parking on them would as well.  The LED light technology would allow Disney to do some really impressive things in the parking lot and the walk up to the front gates.  Heck, let’s do all of the park walkways with this!

ohhh, pretty lights

ohhh, pretty lights

In general, every rooftop (aside from the new garden rooftop on Innoventions) should be collecting solar energy.

I think that it would be interesting to see what could be done with catching the rainwater and putting it to use.  I know that I’ve posted about using rainwater to irrigate the green architecture, but I’d think that there could be more done.  Can it be turned into some sort of hydroelectric power?  As water sinks through the ground, if it is caught and moved downhill, could energy be created as it passes through to the sewage system or to rainwater collection tanks that could be used elsewhere on property?  I’m not sure, but it seems feasible.  A quick google says that there are people looking at collecting runoff of rainwater from buildings to go through micro-turbines and collect the energy produced.  This wouldn’t likely produce much, but it would add, and that’s part of the point that I think the Universe of Energy pavilion should highlight. 

Every little bit helps, and a combination of many of these technologies is going to be what makes renewable energy solutions work in the future.  It’s easy to say “We’ll never produce enough energy with wind power, so it’s a waste to invest in it”.  Sure, but it does play a part in a bigger picture.  Universe of Energy should highlight this, and heck, I think a post-show area should highlight all of the ways that Disney, and Epcot are using these various technologies to power their new 100% renewable Future World.

I’ve already mentioned putting some interesting wind-power collecting technologies near Universe of Energy, but we could up that to be prevalent all over Future World, in various forms.  It would add tons of kinetic energy to Future World.

A final idea I’ll throw out would be to replace a lot of the windows around Future World with energy-producing algae windows, and to replace some of the night walkway lighting with algae lamps.

Am I wrong in thinking that The Land pavilion’s large dome of skylights over the main pavilion area wouldn’t look great with some of these suckers?

The power of algae!   Say that in a Bill Nye voice for full effect

The power of algae!   Say that in a Bill Nye voice for full effect

Then of course there’s the huge nuclear power plant we’d bring in to replace Wonders of Life…

 

Kidding.

All told, I think by highlighting many different forward thinking energy solutions across Epcot, it could be a hugely successful motif.  A green architecture Epcot, surrounded by renewable energy solutions.  What a strong message this would send, how close to the mission of Epcot Center this would be.  Epcot would show it’s about innovation, it’s about solving the issues of the world, and it’s also about helping to invest in developing new technologies that could be used to solve them.  I’m all in.  Let’s do this.