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Case study: Cowichan Arena sticks it to energy waste

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World's largest hockey stick goes LED as part of efficiency upgrades

The Penticton Vees may have won the Power Smart Fred Page Cup in the B.C. Hockey League (BCHL) playoffs, but they're not the only team in the league making great saves.

The Cowichan Capitals' home ice is in the Cowichan Arena at the Island Savings Centre, where energy efficient upgrades to the facility resulted in another kind of game-changing power play.

The Island Savings Centre is home to the World's Largest Hockey Stick. According to John Elzinga, manager of the Island Savings Centre, "It stands in front of the arena and people coming to the Island Savings Centre often arrange to meet at 'The Stick'."

But maintaining such a landmark is no easy feat. The 180 13-watt incandescent bulbs had a huge energy draw, and every two years bulbs had to be replaced. As one of the Centre's efficiency upgrades, they switched all 180 bulbs to 3.5 watt LED lights. "They not only save energy," says Elzinga, "we only have to service them every 10 years, instead of every two."

The stick may be one of the most visible changes to the complex, but it's only the tip of the iceberg in terms of efficiency upgrades. In the past three years, the Cowichan Arena has taken advantage of BC Hydro rebates to complete a number of energy-saving projects.

"We started with an energy audit," says Elzinga. "That identified some of the initiatives we undertook."

Big power plays

In addition to upgrading "The Stick," the arena underwent four more big shifts.

"We changed the overhead arena lighting from 1,000 watt [metal] halide fixtures to 250 watt induction lighting that has minimal heat output," says Elzinga. "The new lamps are rated to last 100,000 hours. For us that works out to 17 years, maintaining at least 85% of luminaire output."

In the lobby and dressing rooms they switched from T12 fluorescent lights to T8 fluorescents, and connected them to occupancy sensors so they shut off when not in use.

They upgraded the air conditioner chillers to more energy-efficient models throughout the complex, and installed a heat-recovery system to reclaim waste heat from the rink's ice plant.

"If you feel the back of your refrigerator, it's hot," Elzinga says. "That's similar to the ice plants. When you have a cooling system like that it gives off heat.

"Rather than just having the heat go into the atmosphere, this system recovers that heat and reintroduces it to the hot water system, reducing the amount of energy it takes to heat the water."

Elzinga says that it's difficult to give a dollar value for the savings from any particular upgrade because of the size and multiple uses of the centre as a whole, and the various actions they have taken. But he says they can definitely see a difference in their bills.

To other businesses interested in saving money and energy, Elzinga recommends starting by getting an energy audit to identify opportunities for energy efficient upgrades. He says, "Just about any business would find some opportunities."

Cooperation, not competition

The arena doesn't (yet) use their efficiency upgrades as a marketing angle, but they do freely share information about the changes they've made with other businesses, in particular other recreation complexes and arenas.

"Brad Coleman [Facility Operations Coordinator at the Island Savings Centre] and I belong to the Recreation Facilities Association of British Columbia," says Elzinga, "so we share these opportunities with colleagues on the island and around the province. The induction lighting for example was first put into Port Alberni in the Alberni Valley Multiplex. We had heard about it, but they had already put it in use."

BC Hydro supports the BCHL and local hockey heroes throughout the regular season, and was a title sponsor for the Power Smart Fred Page Cup playoffs for the second straight year.