Les Quinton

Les Quinton, Parks & Recreation Manager, Town of Black Diamond, Alberta

A few weeks back when Les Quinton shared with me a spreadsheet that tracks, among other things, compressor run time hours at one of the arenas in Black Diamond, Alberta, I noticed a NOTE under the column containing the data from 2010. The note read, “Installation of energy management system“. Since I had all the data from 1998 up to the end of the 2017-18 season, I was able to look at those numbers and contemplate what impact the energy management system had on this facility’s energy demand.

For those of you who are reading about Les Quinton for the very first time, he’s been on an energy-saving quest ever since he started working at the Oilfields Regional Arena (ORA) in 1998.  Take their water use, for example. Today they run two arenas (one is outdoor) and, when he began, they had just one — and their water consumption has been cut in half!!!


Quinton has grandchildren and he wants to make the world a better place for them — and by reducing the arenas’ resources spend, he and his team are making a difference. The other reality is he inherited an undersized refrigeration plant and to be able to provide a safe ice surface for his users, Quinton had no choice but to find better ways.

The energy management system is one of those better ways. In 2009, the year before the system was installed, the ORA used 219,554 kWh of electricity (I told you, something special is happening here!) In 2010, the consumption fell to 202,585. The year after the installation, the ORA’s season went permanently to 8 months from seven.  Back in 2009, an average month would use 31,364 kWh but in 2011, an average month used 28,063 — or 3,301 kWh less. And — get this — the hours of paid usage was slightly higher than what it was before the system was installed.

Year 2009 2010 2011
Electricity 219,554 kWh 202,585 kWh 224,504 kWh
Season 7 months 7 months 8 months
Paid Users 1648.25 1553.5 1655.5
kWh/month 31,364 28,940 28,063

The bottom line is with the more user hours and a longer season, the arena consumed 3,000 kWh a month less in 2011 than it did in 2009.

At the ORA, the energy management system controls the refrigeration system, heaters over the bleachers, a circulating pump on water lines to the flood room, a CO2 sensor in the open area of the arena and a current transducer (CT) that tracks the power consumed by the building.

“We control the ice temperature with a schedule,” Quinton says. “This allows us to raise the ice temperature when the facility is not in use, lower it for normal use — and adjust it for heavy usage. That gives us better control of the ice temperature for the different usage. Due to the size of our refrigeration system (40 ton) we are not able to make much of a temperature adjustment – only 1 degree between each usage level.”

In 2013 the energy management system was expanded to control the unloader on the compressor which unloads two cylinders on the compressor when the amperage draw is close to the limitations of the compressor motor.

“This happens in warm weather when we are installing the ice,” Quinton says. “This had to be done manually in the past so if it was not caught it could put the compressor motor in danger of overloading – this can burn out the motor or drastically decrease its life expectancy. The energy management system now automatically takes care of this operation which will, in turn, prolong the life of the compressor motor.”

I had to know more about the energy management system that had been put in place.

Intelligent Rinks by Guest Automation
Intelligent Rinks
Screen shot

One Central Operating Platform

Brodie Guest, Founder and President of Guest Automation Inc., of Okotoks, Alberta filled me in on why his company is the industry leader in advanced Arena Energy Management Control Systems under their Intelligent Rinks brand. Let’s get this clear: what this control system does is pull ALL the facility’s mechanical systems into one central operating platform. That allows for on site AND remote access for scheduling, monitoring history and trending. It’s managing the compressors too, (as the largest energy consumer) but the system is also controlling the entire facility. That means everything from the dehumidifiers, makeup air units, ice temperature, pump control, conference room temperatures, restaurant and lounge ventilation control, the bleacher heaters, gas detection, swimming pools, air quality for the dressing rooms (we all know what that’s like!)  — so, yes, the entire facility. The list of what can be managed in these facilities is limitless; each Intelligent Rinks system is designed and customized to each specific arena’s requirements.

“We’re pioneers in the industry,” Guest explains. “Most vendors have control systems for their equipment. But providing the equipment is newer than 15 years old, we’re able to integrate them into our system — and control them!”

Over the past 10 years Guest has perfected the integration of all compressor manufacturer’s controls for both rotary and screw compression with close to 100 sheets of ice in arenas in five Canadian provinces and three American states.

Like Mission Control

Like remote controlling a space launch, Intelligent Rinks, (Guest Automation’s ice arena division), is able to coordinate all the different mechanical systems in a facility and get them to work together to maintain goals in a less energy-intensive way. It helps avoid expensive and common load situations, such as when the dehumidifier is blasting away, throwing warm air into the rink, and all the compressors are pounding away trying to get rid of that heat.

Guest Automation is helping smaller, seasonal arenas like what Les Quinton is running in Black Diamond to reduce their energy spend — but they’re helping the big players reduce theirs’ too. One of Guest’s key clients operates two dozen facilities in Canada and the US and based on the substantial energy savings realized at a number of arenas with the Intelligent Rinks system installed, are rolling out to ALL their arenas.

“Last year, we saved hundreds of thousands of dollars in energy costs for this client,” Guest says. “So far this year, based on first quarter results, we’re on track to save them double last year’s exceptional savings.”

Calling on Components ONLY When Needed

What Intelligent Rinks delivers is a system that calls on components when needed, putting to rest forever the habit of, for example, on/off-on/off which Guest says isn’t just an energy hog, but shortens the life cycle of the equipment with all the wear and tear.

“Look at those compressors,” Brodie explains reduced run times as he shows a demo of a live site. “This arena has 3-125 HP compressors to run a 4-pad arena. Compressor #2 has logged 280 hours month-to-date — and the other two haven’t logged anything! It’s 125 times one instead of 125 times three!” he says, referring to the horsepower being used.

Guest says that at several facilities, the lag compressors aren’t really needed anymore — “not that we would recommend that they should remove them, but in some instances, they haven’t been called on since the energy management system was put in place.”

The Future

Guest’s first Energy Management Control System was installed in a twin pad in Edmonton, Alberta in 2007 and continues to control the entire facility providing energy savings and operational efficiencies. And the future looks very bright. Guest is currently completing another installation which will control the largest multiple-pad facility in Canada, and one of only two of that size in North America. Guest is also in advanced discussions with an NHL team in the southwestern USA, owners of over half a dozen regional arenas, to provide them with their own Intelligent Rinks advanced Arena Control System.

If this project goes ahead, and Guest expects it will, it will be their first customer with an NHL team.

And Guest is guessing it won’t be their last.