The Sun Over the Parking Lot

There’s not
a lot of magic in level concrete. Considering that the parking lot often serves as
the launching point to the theme parks, it is only grudgingly that we
accept it as such. It also serves as a stark reminder of reality. Guests visiting Disney’s conservation-themed Animal Kingdom, for instance, first wade through
acres and acres of harsh concrete before entering the lush vegetation of the
aptly named Oasis.

There is
also not a lot you can do with a parking lot. The basic idea of a parking lot
is to efficiently cram as many cars as possible in the smallest space possible.
Adding unnecessary architectural clutter only serves to increase the travel
time for guests. Parking lots end up being hot, harsh monuments to modern

It is with
this in mind that I feel Disney can greatly improve their parking lots.The
idea that I am suggesting not only provides protection from the rain and the
sun, but also allows Disney to save a little money in the end.

My idea is
simply to cover the parking lots in solar panels. This is not a radical idea as
many places have already done so (on a smaller scale). Solar panels not only
provide power, but they also provide shade and protection from rain and heat.
Their necessary disjointed structure (for tilt for maximum sun exposure) allows
for natural lighting which can be further amplified if need be.

energy is a clean form of energy that has very little maintenance cost.
Considering that many of the parking lots were constructed by demolishing acres
of trees, it is fitting that their replacement has a positive impact on nature.
Solar energy is also plentiful. While Florida is not the ideal place for solar panels, it is not a horrible location either
with approximately 5 kWh/m2/d of solar radiation.

The logical
place to begin would be with Epcot’s parking lot. With about 100 acres
available, a large scale solar array could contribute immensely to local energy
needs. Thematically, a solar panel covered parking lot also stresses Disney’s
dedication to technology for a better tomorrow. Also, what could better serve
as a first introduction to Epcot then a futuristic solar panel covered parking

There are
some disadvantages to this idea however. While solar panels have been
decreasing steadily in cost, they are still relatively expensive, costing as
much as $2.5 million per acre (not including structural costs associated with
building them high enough for cars to pass under). The savings might not be
realized until up to 10 years after their installation.

But when
all is said and done, a solar panel covered parking just seems like the right
thing to do. Compared to the current uninspired parking lots, it is definitely
a way to keep moving forward.