REALice system will lower greenhouse gas emissions at Pincher Creek MCC Arena

·3 min read

Creating flawlessly smooth and even ice is a complex and lengthy process at the Pincher Creek Memorial Community Centre Arena.

Water used to fill the Zamboni is heated to 71 C in three different tanks, a process that uses a lot of energy and emits considerable amounts of greenhouse gases.

But a new system is coming, which will simplify the process and decrease the amount of CO2 produced.

Town council committed to actualizing the change Nov. 22, when it passed a motion to sign an offer letter for grant funding, ensuring 75 per cent of project costs are covered through the Municipal Climate Change Action Centre and its Recreational Energy Conservation Program.

“If it can save the energy it is intended to and reduce some of the operating costs, I think it’s going to be a good addition to our facility,” says recreation manager Adam Grose, adding the system will be installed in time for the next ice season in 2022.

REALice, a high-precision water treatment system, uses 25 per cent less energy, which would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 35.4 tonnes of CO2 annually, saving the town $5,982 each year.

Installation costs for the new system sit at $37,631, but with the 75 per cent rebate, costs will be lowered considerably by $28,223.

This leaves the town’s share of costs at $9,408 with a payback period of a year and six months.

The current system converts cold water to hot so that impurities and bubbles in the ice are removed, but with REALice this process becomes mechanical and the equipment won’t need to work as hard.

“Essentially the energy savings are on two fronts because you’re not heating your water in the first place, which takes a ton of natural gas and then your heat transfer system in your ice plant, the compressors, don’t need to run as hard,” explains David Desabrais, municipal energy project lead.

REALice is gaining in popularity across Alberta. More than 10 Calgary arenas already use the technology, as well as rinks in Okotoks, Bow Island, Sparwood and at the University of Alberta in Edmonton.

Town administrators reached out to Bow Island and Sparwood to get feedback on the system and although Sparwood remained neutral, Bow Island had a lot of positive things to say.

“They have been able to run their ice plant a lot less and use cold water, so it is saving energy for them and the ice quality has still been quite good,” says Desabrais.

System training will be required for staff at the Pincher Creek arena, but Desabrais says this will be fairly inexpensive, as Switch Services, the company that sells and promotes REALice, offers guidance.

The Recreational Energy Conservation Program, which is funding the majority of costs associated with installation, is running out of money, but Desabrais says that this impacts only studies and not implementation projects, so apart from a longer waiting time for application processing, REALice remains relatively unaffected.

Gillian Francis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Shootin' the Breeze

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