Disney to harness solar power with help of Duke Energy

A new solar facility designed in the shape of a "not-so-hidden-Mickey" is the latest step by Duke Energy to expand renewable energy in Central Florida.

Duke Energy joined with Walt Disney World Resort and Reedy Creek Improvement District (RCID) to develop the five-megawatt solar facility located on 22 acres near Epcot, across from Disney's Yacht and Beach Club Resort. The facility is made of 48,000 solar panels and is operated by Duke Energy, which will sell the alternative energy to RCID to help meet the power needs of Walt Disney World Resort and its other customers, such as Four Seasons Resort and the hoteliers along Hotel Plaza Boulevard.

"This will provide the equivalent of a thousand rooftop solar homes and the square footage is larger than 17 football fields," explained Alex Glenn, with Duke Energy. "Solar is carbon free generation resource, which means we can lower our carbon footprint and not buy as many fossil fuels to run other power plants."

Disney, Duke Energy and RCID representatives commemorated the opening of the new facility by flipping a giant light switch at an event on Tuesday.  However, the farm -- some two years in the making -- actually began generating power in March.  Disney officials said Walt Disney himself would be proud of the endeavor. 

"He was so ahead of his time, and he was so passionate about protecting the natural world, and I can just imagine him here today in Central Florida and seeing this giant Mickey that's going to be producing electricity, and I can just imagine that he would love this moment," said Angie Renner, environmental integration director for Walt Disney World Resort. 

The new solar facility at Walt Disney World is one of several solar projects in development by Duke Energy.  By 2024, the power company plans to add up to 500 megawatts of additional solar energy to Florida.