If you’re ever near Black Diamond, Alberta, stop in to see the Town’s Parks & Recreation Director, Les Quinton. He’ll be happy to take you on a tour of the Oilfields Regional Arena: for the past two decades, Quinton’s been on a quest to make the arena, nestled South of Calgary in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, as energy efficient as possible. Although the town has BEEN CLEVER WITH PARTNERING, GRANT Money and their own Green Fund, Quinton says attitude counts the most IN GETTING THEM WHERE THEY ARE TODAY.

Les Quinton, Town of Black Diamond, Alberta

“We started with the simple things, with changing attitudes,” Quinton says. “So if it’s not in use, we don’t turn it on. You can’t get much simpler than that. And…take care of what you’ve got. That goes a long ways.”

If It’s Not In Use, Don’t Turn It On

It might sound so basic it’s nearly ridiculous. But Quinton’s mantra of “If it’s not in use, don’t turn it on” extends to everything you can think of. In the middle of the summer when the ice is out, you won’t find even the pilot light running in the furnace. Over the years, Quinton’s tried to make all aspects of the facility as on-demand as possible, from faucets in the sinks to the showerheads in the shower stalls. If they sense that you are there, they will turn on.

If not, they won’t.

Take Care of What You’ve Got

The other thing that Quinton feels sets them apart is they take care of what they’ve got.

“When I started in 1997, we knew we had a problem with the motor in one of our compressors. The next season, it stopped working. We lost a day’s worth of billable ice time. That’s the only time in the last 19 years that we’ve let our user groups down.”

Quinton and his team monitor their equipment, with regular checks which span from every two hours, for his refrigeration plant, to a once-a-month check, on the furnace. “And track what you do!” he says. “If you don’t know where you were at, you can’t know how much better (or worse) you are now.”

In the beginning…

Since Quinton started trying to make his arena energy efficient, many things have changed — including access to grants and incentives. Take his first lighting retrofit for example. In 2004 he swapped their metal halide lights in for fluorescent. In 2011, when LED was relatively unknown, he swapped the fluorescents for LED. There were no upgrade grants available for either fluorescent or LED when he was ready to make the swap: sometimes, as an early adopter, there is no support. Today his — count them — 18 LED fixtures above the ice pad give 10 more Footcandles of brightness than anything he’s ever had before. By planning, and being determined to keep his costs down, Quinton was able to equip his arena with just enough energy-saving lights to not just save money, but light his ice surface without any shadows.

Many arenas use twice as many.

Early Adoptor

Today, the Oilfields Regional Arena is not just an arena, it’s one of the municipality’s energy producing stations. This is done with a couple of different alternative energy sources: wind turbines and solar panels.

The Town’s solar debut was in 2006 where they got their toes wet, installing panels with a capacity of 1.82 kW. That installation came with a mound of paperwork that needed to be filled out to obtain permission from everyone from Transport Canada down which would let the Town add electricity to the grid, if they were ever able to produce an abundance. They weren’t. Fast forward to 2016: with the help of Bulfrog Power they upgraded that system to a 5.0 kW system which produced 20,583 kWh last year. They sold a quarter of what they produced — 4,792 kWh — back to the grid.

And this year, solar is shining on the Oilfields Regional Arena. Last month, they had 27 out of a possible 31 net zero days.

Down Wind

Their wind turbines haven’t been as successful, however. The arena has two different wind turbines provinding alternative energy: one on a tower, the other a vertical installation on the roof. “Unfortunately, the maintenance on these turbines is expensive,” Quinton says. In fact, although they’ve outlasted the two local companies who manufactured them, Quinton expects they will be taken out of commission the next time they require major maintenance if no replacement parts can be found.

More Choice, more demand, less consumption

The bottom line is the Town is giving its residents more choice than what they did 20 years ago. They have the same indoor rink but have a seasonal outdoor rink right next door now too, and their season is a month longer than what it used to be (and the local minor hockey association is asking for that to be extended to 8.5 months a year from the 7.5 months it’s at now). That gives their community more ice time which, in turn, has spurred more demand. In addition, they’re running more equipment than they used to (a dehumidifier). You’d think this would make their consumption ramp up, but the opposite is true.

Their consumption is down substantially.

Year Type Consumption
2008 Electricity 235,718 kWh
2016 Electricity 223,789 kWh
2003 Water 678,000 gallons
2016 Water 313,858 gallons
2008 User Groups 1,200 bookings
2016 User Groups 1,400 bookings

The solar panels and wind turbines on the outside of the building may be a giveaway that the Oilfields Regional Arena is a little different than most. It’s the inside, however, that counts the most and there’s barely anything that hasn’t been touched to make that facility more efficient:

  • They’ve replaced the furnace and put a high-efficiency furnace in its place
  • They’ve traded their boilers for energy efficient water heaters
  • They’ve insulated the building, weatherstripped it, insulated their hot water pipes
  • They put in a Low-E ceiling
  • Their lighting, which is now 200 watt LED.
  • Motion sensors were added to the dressing rooms to control the lights and for all other lights in the facilities, they’re “key controlled” by arena staff.
  • As for the ice plant, all systems are controlled electronically through an Energy Management System. That includes their relatively new de-humidifier, which they installed in 2011 and wasn’t integrated into the EMS for nearly a year. Now, it never runs when the ice plant runs, resulting in a continual lower peak.
  • They run their ice a little warmer than most people run their’s. They keep their ice at a tidy 1.25 inches and have three settings for unoccupied, practice and game which range from 22-24F when unoccupied to 18-20F for games.
  • The facilities within the facility have also been improved. The toilets are low flow; there are motion sensors on nearly all of the faucets at the arena, inclluding the showers and urinals. This has gone a long way to cut their water consumption by nearly half
  • They’ve done life cycling on all their equipment and when replacement is needed, they replace with higher quality equipment.
  • They’ve had three energy audits to date which have helped them plan for tomorrow.

Ice Plant First

Quinton says that if you’re looking for places to save energy, you should look at your ice plant first.

“Where you’re going to save your most money is in how your refrigeration system operates,” Quinton says. “Look at how cold it is, how thick your ice at. See what kind of temperatures the air is at above it. By reducing your ice plant’s energy spend, you’ll have the largest effect.”

“Look at what you’re doing now, and think about how you can improve it. We all have brains, we might as well use them!”