Rising energy cost dings bottom line of amusement parks

Posted Tuesday, July 22, 2008 10:10 AM | Contributed by Jeff

Amusement rides cost a lot more to operate than they did just a year ago. The electric bills are up for the roller coasters, log flume, carousel and even the kiddie-size bumper cars. New England parks are feeling the pinch, and looking for ways to run rides less expensively.

Read more from The Hartford Courant.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008 11:15 AM
How long before we see coasters with solar panel supports? :)

That was an interesting read. I always heard one of the most expensive rides to run in the US was SFMM's Roaring Rapids because it uses older, more expensive pumps that are very electricity thirsty.

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008 11:31 AM
I'm kind of concerned why the Six Flags manager referred to people as "bodies." A better word could have easily been inserted.
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Tuesday, July 22, 2008 11:43 AM
I hate to say it but a lot of businesses talk about getting bodies through the doors/gates. It is a common term in business.
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Tuesday, July 22, 2008 12:22 PM
^^i.e. to the airline industry passengers are mere "freight"....and freight that's getting heavier, btw, thanks to McDonald's and the internet!!
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Tuesday, July 22, 2008 2:56 PM
Sounds about right for the SFMM Roaring Rapids. The river is HUGE too.

"bodies" have been referred to as "butts". Heck, I'm fairly certain folks around here have used that...Jeff? Gonch? ;)

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008 5:21 PM
GoliathKills and janfrederick, I know that when Top Thrill Dragster was built at Cedar Point, a park official (I think it was Monty Jasper himself) noted that Thunder Canyon has the highest electric bill in the park. Or at least 'had' until Dragster came along, since Dragster has similar operating requirements. Thunder Canyon has four pumps on it, and each pump lifts a column of water roughly 2' in diameter to a height of about fifteen feet. There's very little you can do to make that process any more efficient.

The industry has been working on cutting its energy bill for years, though. Amusement rides were very quick to adopt technologies such as regenerative braking systems, for example, that dump 'waste' electricity back into the power grid. And ride lighting packages have been evolving for years into more efficient designs. I'm happy to see the LED turbolites becoming available because it means even higher efficiency in more traditional lighting packages (I'm not a big fan of floodlights or flourescents).

--Dave Althoff, Jr.

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008 5:26 PM
I was at cedar point a couple of weeks ago and was wondering how much it costs to launch Dragster. Anyone know any numbers?
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Tuesday, July 22, 2008 7:00 PM
I would think WT or Maverick at CP would be more expensive to operate than TTD. Correct?
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Tuesday, July 22, 2008 7:42 PM
I would place wagers that Dragster and WT are probably about even.

Hydraulics take loads of energy in the form of electric pumps.

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008 8:52 PM

That was an interesting read. I always heard one of the most expensive rides to run in the US was SFMM's Roaring Rapids because it uses older, more expensive pumps that are very electricity thirsty.

Ha. Let's not forget the park is home to Superman The Escape...which I believe ranks quite high up there when it comes to a high level of energy consumption by a single unit as well. It has a dedicated feed and grid from Southern California Edison for crying out loud!

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008 9:52 PM
Granted it's Wikipedia, but under hydraulic launch coasters, the claim is they're surprisingly energy efficient since hydraulics are not that kW dependent and chain-lift coasters actually use more electricity!?

In addition, since I work with Ohio Edison frequently for my company, I got the impression Cedar Point has either negotiated their own contract rates or go through a third-party like Constellation...and which are probably pretty good to be honest!!

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008 10:09 PM
I too would love to know the cost per launch on Superman at SFMM but also vs. cost per launch of other launch coasters.

Watching Reflections of Earth at Epcot the other night with it's "pyro barge" that put out the biggest flames I've ever seen in my life for a surprisingly long time, I wonder how much that costs to set off nightly!

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Wednesday, July 23, 2008 12:24 PM
My understanding is that the cost per launch on a LIM launched ride is fairly low, and on an LSM-equipped ride is even lower, because while the requirement is for a very high current, that high current is required for a very brief time interval. The hydraulic launch, on the other hand, is running a large pump continuously much like on the canyon rides, in order to be able to supply the necessary peak power at launch time.

In the last years of the Cedar Point Cinema, Cedar Point ran advertising spots before the show for First Energy...

--Dave Althoff, Jr.

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Wednesday, July 23, 2008 3:02 PM
Yeah, since electricity companies measure your peak demand in increments of 15 minutes and base rates off of that, the small spurts generated by an LIM launched ride actually do very little to affect the overall cost.

Speaking of Rapids rides, we installed VFD's on our pumps about four or five years ago, and the cost savings have been tremendous. There's a lot of wasted energy running the pumps at 100%. I think we took them down below 80%, and maintain the same flow and water level. So there's still hope to save some bucks on the older rapids rides. Not so much on hydraulic launched ones, though.

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Wednesday, July 23, 2008 8:27 PM
kpjb--

That is interesting that you were able to do that with the rapids ride. In the past two weeks I have ridden two of those things, and I was noticing that they are designed to pump significantly more water into the upper reservoir than the ride needs, and then an overflow system is used to take the water level back down. So I take it what you do is to run the pumps a little slower so that there isn't quite so much water running out the overflow at the top of the ride?

--Dave Althoff, Jr.

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Wednesday, July 23, 2008 8:45 PM
Wow. I read and posted to this thread, and then submitted the same article as news. I'm smart.

Yes, Dave, we noticed the same thing. A lot of wasted pumping. We set our water level/flow rate, installed the drives, then slowly lowered the hz until we acheived the same result without the overflow. It's like running 2 1/4 pumps. Coincidentally, we have a fourth "backup" pump which was originally to be installed with the ride. Turns out it wouldn't fit, and it wasn't needed. Now we barely need the third one, too.

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Wednesday, July 23, 2008 9:40 PM
^But that third pump will surely come in handy when one of them needs repairs/maintenance....

There are lots of ways parks can save on electricity - but I sure hope they find other (better) methods before turning to the idea of earlier closing times = less money for lighting. I've been losing this particular battle for the last couple years... meh.

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