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Concentration of CO2 in the Atmosphere

Woodstock, Vt’s Net-Zero Ice Arena is Up and Running!

Eastside solar panels consisting of 644 430-watt modules that cover the entire roof. (Images: EJay Bishop, Woodstock Union Arena Community Center)

Barbara Whitchurch

The Union Arena Community Center (www.Unionarena.org) in Woodstock, VT might be the first ice arena renovation in North America to reach net zero. The arena is the culmination of a four-phase plan, carefully mapped out back in 2014 by its Executive Director, EJay Bishop and the arena’s Board of Directors. Way back then, this author wrote a piece about it (http://www.greenenergytimes.org/2017/02/15/ice-skating-with-solar/) describing the process in some detail. Phase 3 and much of phase 4 has since been completed including the solar array and the reclaimed heat storage.

I spoke with Kevin McCollister of Catamount Solar (www.catamountsolar.com/) about the solar installation at the arena. It was designed to be completed in two phases: The first, consisting of 211 400-watt modules, was mounted on the roof and atop a 28-foot awning. The second phase, completed last May, consists of 644 430-watt modules and it covers the entire roof. The number of panels was calculated to “over-generate” in order to offset the use of natural gas and propane, as well as the electrical usage. Was it successful? According to EJay Bishop, “We won’t know until the end of the year if our projections are accurate. But so far, we are up and running and on track!”

Solar panels on the back end consist of 211 400-watt modules, atop a 28-foot awning.

The arena is also reclaiming energy and heat from its refurbished refrigeration plant, which is almost complete. Stored in four large tanks, this heated water from the refrigeration heat exchanger is being used to resurface the ice and for hot showers. According to Bishop, “It’s working great, producing lots of hot water, and reducing our propane consumption.”

The heat reclaim storage tanks from the refurbished refrigeration plant produce lots of hot water.

How did the arena pay for this huge undertaking? Bishop says, “Fundraising, incentives, and, most importantly, energy cost savings! Every year, we have reinvested our savings into capital replacement and repairs, while in the past there wasn’t any money to invest. Going forward for the life expectancy of this building, we can use our cost savings to pay for future expenses.”

Although the project was a team effort, Bishop credits Harold Mayhew with the idea and vision. “Harold, as the new Board president and with support from the entire Union arena board, introduced and initiated his vision in 2014. I can’t overstate the importance of having him. He is a design leader in the ice rink industry; he has the expertise and knowledge, and we couldn’t have done it without him.”

The Woodstock Union Arena Community Center serves a large area of VT’s Upper Valley communities and into New Hampshire. It hosts a myriad of community events in addition to its ice skating programs and competitions: ceremonies, graduations, off-season trade shows, blood drives, etc.

Asked about a takeaway for other ice arenas, Bishop mentioned two points. First, “This project was definitely worth doing. We are a small community with limited resources, and this will provide sustainability for the arena for years to come.” Second, Bishop is happy to help other rinks with any information or advice they may need. “Every rink is different,” he says, “but they should all consider the solar aspect. It’s good for the rinks, and it’s good for the planet.”

The Whitchurches power their EVs with solar in Middlesex, Vermont. www.bit.do/gkw-li.

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