Solar news: October 19th, 2018

In this week’s Solar News Roundup, Walt Disney World turns to a brand new solar panel installation for clean electricity and Tesla takes initial steps towards a new Gigafactory in China.

Walt Disney World set to open 50-megawatt solar installation

There’s a new attraction coming to Disney World: a solar panel installation set to power two of its four theme parks in central Florida. The new facility will open before the end of 2018 just outside of the Animal Kingdom park and will produce enough electricity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by over 57,000 tons per year (equivalent to about removing 9,300 cars from the road). The electricity produced by the new solar array goes to the electric grid, and not directly into the theme parks. Regardless, by paying for renewable energy infrastructure, Disney is still effectively offsetting their electricity usage by increasing the penetration of solar. More solar energy flowing to the grid means less non-renewable generation is needed to meet electricity demand.

Following in the footsteps of large corporations before them, Disney’s commitment to solar energy is as much about brand image as it is promoting clean energy. “Our guests tell us the environment is important, so it’s a big deal for us,” said Mark Penning, Disney’s vice president of Animals, Science, and Environment. The focus makes sense – according to a report by Cone Communications, about 79 percent of consumers say they look for socially or environmentally responsible products. This kind of investment by Disney signals a focus on more than just profit to park visitors. Penning says the company values customer respect and admiration, “Not just for incredible content, but for being a responsible citizen of the world.”

Tesla eyes China as the next home for a Gigafactory

A new Gigafactory for Tesla may be coming in the near future, but not in the U.S. For an undisclosed (but likely hefty) price tag, Tesla recently acquired 210 acres of land in Shanghai to build a Gigafactory centered on building electric vehicles and batteries. The new factory, dubbed Gigafactory 3, will join Tesla’s current lineup of two Gigafactories, one in Nevada and one in Buffalo, NY. This addition will double Tesla’s global manufacturing.

What can this new factory do for Tesla? For starters, the facility will be able to produce 500,000 cars a year, complete with their engines and batteries. A Chinese factory will also lower manufacturing labor expenses, shipping times, and shipping costs for Tesla, potentially allowing the company to lower the retail cost of their vehicles. Lastly, having a China location will allow Tesla to force its way into the rapidly expanding Chinese electric vehicle market. According to Reuters, electric vehicle and plug-in hybrid vehicle sales were up over 50% in September.

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About Jacob Marsh

Jacob is an EnergySage writer with expertise in solar, electrification, and renewable energy. With over five years of experience researching and writing about the home energy industry (plus a degree in Geological Sciences from Tufts University), he brings a unique scientific approach to writing and investigating all things energy.