DisneylandIt is undeniable that we all get through a lot of energy.

We’re constantly bombarded with information about the impending energy crisis and told to reduce our energy consumption. We can do this by switching-off appliances, never leaving lights on and changing to energy-saving light bulbs. Changing x-many light bulbs will save y-many tonnes of carbon, and z-many kilowatt-hours of electricity every year!

But what does this really mean? Talking about carbon footprints in tonnes seems like an awful lot, and who even knows what a kilowatt-hour is?

To put this in some sort of perspective, and as a bit of light relief from the pressure of saving the world, here’s a comparison between two large energy consumers:Disneyland, and a small country.

Measuring Usage

A kilowatt-hour (kWh) is the amount of electricity used for constant power over one hour. In 2012 Disney used 1,810,000,000 kWh of electricity (that’s one billion, eight hundred and ten million kilowatt-hours). That’s more than the whole of Senegal, but slightly less than all of the Bahamas. Alternatively, that’s almost three times as much as everybody in Jersey.

About 75% of Disney’s energy is used at theme-parks and resorts (the rest is used in their offices and shops), so we can estimate that Disney resorts get through around 1,357,500,000 kWh (one billion, three hundred and fifty seven million five hundred thousand kilowatt-hours) of energy a year – fractionally less than all of Cambodia, or about ten times as much as Gibraltar.

What do the figures mean?

Obviously these figures are just enormous meaningless numbers unless you also take into account the number of people using this electricity.

Across all of its parks and resorts, Disney sees human traffic of around 121,400,000 visitors a year. If you split that energy consumption between them*, that’s 465 watts per person. The population of Cambodia on the other hand, around 1,560,000, only use 13 watts per head.

Disney does in fact use substantially more electricity than quite a few small countries and some large countries too! A selection of these is:

– Costa Rica;
– Poland;
– Bulgaria;
– China.

Disney vs China

Yes that’s right, China. Despite having the fastest growing industries in the world, China still manages to use substantially less electricity per person (397W) than gleeful day-trippers at Disneyland. However, China does have an extremely large population to spread that electricity between. At over 1,350,000,000 strong, itdwarfs Disneyland’s annual visitors almost fifteen-thousand to one.

If we take a closer look at a country with a slightly more modest population we can do a side-by-side comparison and see where that electricity goes.

Bulgaria, population around 7.5 million, uses 28,300,000,000kWh annually, or 438W per person. That’s around 30W less per person than Disneyland. As an economically stable country with all the expected offices and business, as well as many successful ski-resorts, you would expect Bulgaria’s electricity consumption to be pretty high. However,despite being about 800 times smaller Disneyland still manages to get through more. This is probably something to do with Disney’s 23 rollercoasters in comparison to Bulgaria’s 1 (not to mention all the other rides and attractions), and the constant twinkling lights and pyrotechnic displays.

So,the reason Disney gets through such a staggering amount of electricity is simply because there is an overwhelming amount of stuff in a Disney theme-park. You can’t power a theme-park in the same way you power a country, because it would all end up a little dull and, well, normal. Disney’s main selling point is it’s magical and (I quote) “better than new” appearance. It takes an awful lot of fairy-lights to achieve that!

Moving Forward

It’s not all doom and gloom for environmentalists though. The Walt Disney World Resort, Florida, has recently undergone huge changes to reduce its energy consumption, switching high-energy bulbs to low-energy LED fixtures and switching-off the lights on rides that aren’t in use. In fact, Disney have a long-term goal to reduce their net carbon emissions to zero by switching to more efficient processes across all their parks and resorts.

In comparison to the rest of the world, Disney are hardly the big hitters. They use less electricity per head than the UK(631W), Belgium (878W), the USA (1363W) and Canada(1795W). The worst culprits, using more than twice as much electricity as their closest contenders, are Iceland. They get through a staggering 5870W, each, every year. With a population very similar to that of Disneyland (320,060), but using more than twelve times as much power, Iceland must have some fantastic rollercoasters…

This post is provided by Slaters Electricals who have over 65 years’ experience in energy efficiency and power supply solutions. Their work ranges from uninterruptable power supplies for large venues and services to transformers for small communities.

*To work out the watts per person, use this formula:

Electric power per capita [inwatt ] = Total population electricity consumption [ in kWh/yr ] x 1,000/(365.25 x 24)/population.

The ‘population’ of Disney resorts is the annual visitor total divided by 365 – imagine if the number of people that can fit in the parks at one time all just lived there!