Disney builds massive solar facility to cut emissions in half by 2020

Disney, one of world's largest entertainment companies, doubles down on its environmental plan.

  • Disney is taking the lead in reducing greenhouse emissions at its facilities.
  • The company built a giant solar panel installation to power its Florida resort.
  • Disney plans to cut emissions by 50 percent by the year 2020.

You know who's one of the world's leaders in tackling greenhouse gas emissions? You might be surprised to know that the venerable corporation that brought us Mickey Mouse is staying ahead of the pack by following through on its pledge to cut emissions by 50 percent. Disney's goal is to reach half the emissions it had in 2012 by the year 2020.

One big way the entertainment juggernaut is making its commitment a reality is by opening an enormous new 270-acre, 50-megawatt solar facility in Florida. It went online in 2019 to provide clean renewable energy to the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando. As stated on Disney's blog, the facility will generate so much power, Disney will be able to use it to operate two of its four theme parks in Central Florida.

The new solar farm, consisting of more than half a million panels, will majorly reduce net greenhouse gas emissions, lowering them by more than 57,000 tons per year. As reported by the New York Times, Disney estimates the amount of energy the facility can produce would be enough to power 10,000 homes annually. That's also as much as getting 9,300 cars off the road.

Check out how the new solar factory was put together here -

The new solar farm joins other Disney efforts towards its green goal. In 2016, the company opened a 22-acre, 5-megawatt solar facility that's shaped like Mickey Mouse. Its Tokyo Disneyland also uses solar power from rooftops to generate more than 600 kilowatts for its electrical parade light. Disneyland Paris is also in on the green game, utilizing geothermal energy for the power needed in two of its theme parks as well as a hotel. Disney's Shanghai Resort makes use of a cooling and heating plant that cuts emissions by 60 percent.

"Our guests tell us the environment is important, so it's a big deal for us," explained Mark Penning, vice president of Disney's Animals, Science and Environment in a 2018 interview, adding that the company wants to be admired "not just for creating incredible content, but for being a responsible citizen of the world."

Photo courtesy of Disney

Here's how the Mickey Mouse solar farm looks from the ground.

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An organism found in dirt may lead to an anxiety vaccine, say scientists

Can dirt help us fight off stress? Groundbreaking new research shows how.

University of Colorado Boulder
Surprising Science
  • New research identifies a bacterium that helps block anxiety.
  • Scientists say this can lead to drugs for first responders and soldiers, preventing PTSD and other mental issues.
  • The finding builds on the hygiene hypothesis, first proposed in 1989.

Are modern societies trying too hard to be clean, at the detriment to public health? Scientists discovered that a microorganism living in dirt can actually be good for us, potentially helping the body to fight off stress. Harnessing its powers can lead to a "stress vaccine".

Researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder found that the fatty 10(Z)-hexadecenoic acid from the soil-residing bacterium Mycobacterium vaccae aids immune cells in blocking pathways that increase inflammation and the ability to combat stress.

The study's senior author and Integrative Physiology Professor Christopher Lowry described this fat as "one of the main ingredients" in the "special sauce" that causes the beneficial effects of the bacterium.

The finding goes hand in hand with the "hygiene hypothesis," initially proposed in 1989 by the British scientist David Strachan. He maintained that our generally sterile modern world prevents children from being exposed to certain microorganisms, resulting in compromised immune systems and greater incidences of asthma and allergies.

Contemporary research fine-tuned the hypothesis, finding that not interacting with so-called "old friends" or helpful microbes in the soil and the environment, rather than the ones that cause illnesses, is what's detrimental. In particular, our mental health could be at stake.

"The idea is that as humans have moved away from farms and an agricultural or hunter-gatherer existence into cities, we have lost contact with organisms that served to regulate our immune system and suppress inappropriate inflammation," explained Lowry. "That has put us at higher risk for inflammatory disease and stress-related psychiatric disorders."

University of Colorado Boulder

Christopher Lowry

This is not the first study on the subject from Lowry, who published previous work showing the connection between being exposed to healthy bacteria and mental health. He found that being raised with animals and dust in a rural environment helps children develop more stress-proof immune systems. Such kids were also likely to be less at risk for mental illnesses than people living in the city without pets.

Lowry's other work also pointed out that the soil-based bacterium Mycobacterium vaccae acts like an antidepressant when injected into rodents. It alters their behavior and has lasting anti-inflammatory effects on the brain, according to the press release from the University of Colorado Boulder. Prolonged inflammation can lead to such stress-related disorders as PTSD.

The new study from Lowry and his team identified why that worked by pinpointing the specific fatty acid responsible. They showed that when the 10(Z)-hexadecenoic acid gets into cells, it works like a lock, attaching itself to the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR). This allows it to block a number of key pathways responsible for inflammation. Pre-treating the cells with the acid (or lipid) made them withstand inflammation better.

Lowry thinks this understanding can lead to creating a "stress vaccine" that can be given to people in high-stress jobs, like first responders or soldiers. The vaccine can prevent the psychological effects of stress.

What's more, this friendly bacterium is not the only potentially helpful organism we can find in soil.

"This is just one strain of one species of one type of bacterium that is found in the soil but there are millions of other strains in soils," said Lowry. "We are just beginning to see the tip of the iceberg in terms of identifying the mechanisms through which they have evolved to keep us healthy. It should inspire awe in all of us."

Check out the study published in the journal Psychopharmacology.