The new REALice system installed in the Nelson Civic Centre arena has been saving thousands of dollars.

Civic saving energy costs

After a pilot project with FortisBC, the new REALice technology is here to stay.

The City of Nelson has permanently installed REALice polar vortex technology into the Civic Centre arena based on the results of last season’s pilot study which saw a $2,000 reduction in utility costs.

Last winter, the ice rink participated in a FortisBC-funded pilot to test the innovative ice resurfacing technology, which removes impurities from ice without having to heat the water. The aim was to cut down on its environmental footprint.

Ice rinks typically heat water used to resurface the ice to reduce air bubbles for a smoother ice surface. The REALice technology is essentially a section of specialized piping that creates a polar vortex that removes the air bubbles without having to heat the water. This saves money as the initial heating and subsequent re-cooling of the water is eliminated.

The $30,000 cost of the polar vortex technology was covered by a grant/rebate from FortisBC while the $200 installation cost was relatively minimal.

Fiona Galbraith, corporate energy coordinator for the City of Nelson, said the first year saw $2,000 in savings in energy costs with the REALice equipment. They saw a four per cent decrease in natural gas usage and a six per cent decrease in electricity consumption. Galbraith said that amounts to a reduction of six tonnes of greenhouse gases per year and although it is a small fraction, every bit adds up to meet the city’s goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

As far as the ice quality, Galbraith said arena manager Al May is happy with it “after a bit of fine tuning” over the season’s pilot. She said the ideal scenario would be that people would not notice a difference.

Nine of 10 arenas that participated in the pilot project across BC have now adopted the new technology. Galbraith said the Regional District of Central Kootenay recently invested in the same system for the adjacent ice rink in the community complex.

FortisBC representative Grace Pickell said, “The traditional ice-making process requires a lot of energy and contributes significantly to the monthly utility bill of a facility. With the new technology, the arena cut its annual natural gas use by 120 gigajoules — the equivalent of taking 29 cars off the road. Additionally, we estimate that the arena also cut its electricity consumption by 7,800 kilowatt hours.”

Pickell said Fortis chose the polar vortex technology for the initial pilot project due to its success in 250 locations around the world, including being used at the 2014 World Junior Hockey Championships in Sweden.

“The 10 arenas that participated in the pilot program reduced their energy consumption by 2,900 gigajoules per year — the equivalent of taking 714 cars of the road, or heating about 45 homes annually,” she said. There are approximately 200 ice rinks across BC.

Left to right: Hakan Gronlund (REALice), Allan May (Civic Centre Arena Manager), Richard Hill (Project Coordinator), Fiona Galbraith (Corporate Energy Coordinator), Kim Palfenier (Nelson Regional Sports Council).

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