Improved Ice Rink Quality and Energy Savings

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“In Europe, over 250 ice rink operators have started to use a vortex process technology, to lay and resurface ice rinks. This technology removes micro-bubbles from water by spinning the water into an ordered vortex movement. Through this process, micro- bubbles are driven to the inside of the swirl and then released. As a result of the process, with less micro-bubbles and impurities in the water – than through the traditional process of heating the water to make the ice – the ice is harder, faster, more transparent and produces less snow.”

REAL ice is a Swedish technology, now installed in over 250 ice rinks across Europe, of which some have hosted the Hockey World Championship 2012 and the European Figure Skating Championship 2010 – both in Helsinki.

The idea behind Vortex Process Technology is to allow a fluid, to self-organize into an ordered vortex movement. Vortex movement is fundamental in nature. It occurs in galaxies, tornadoes, mountain streams and human blood flow.

Macroscopic and microscopic gas bubbles in water will be pulled into the low-pressure zone in the vortex chamber. The low pressure will cause them to expand and gather into large bubbles that can be easily extracted downstream of the vortex generator. This process is called degassing.

Besides the degassing phenomena of vortex treated water, the vortex generator also decreases viscosity. The difference lies between 3% and 17%, depending on water quality and temperature.

It was already shown by Albert Einstein in 1905, that gas bubble content affects the viscosity of water. As bubbles (undisolved gases) are removed, a decrease in viscosity can therefore be expected. This changes the way water freezes, producing an ice that is more homogenous and strong, and has a higher heat capacity leading to less energy usage in ice rinks.

By using the vortex generator technology in laying and resurfacing ice rinks, the ice gets harder and therefore faster. Harder ice produces less snow and becomes more transparent as a surface.

The process of using vortex technology to make the ice, bears an additional advantage:

Since the ice made through vortex treated water is harder, it can be run a bit thinner and therefore a bit warmer. This, plus the fact that the water doesn’t have to be heated up and thus cooled off, less heat in the freezing process, which means less draw on the compressors, bringing a combined over all energy savings rate between 20%-40% on energy and natural gas. This of course depends on how the facility is run currently. These savings result in a payback of less than two years of the initial investment of the vortex technology. Some European ice rink operators have decided to lease the system and pay for the leasing costs through their energy savings.

Energy savings with REAL ice:

• Natural Gas: 600 – 1000 GJ

• Electricity: 50’000 kWh or more

• Emissions: 30t – 50t of CO2

(Average savings per ice sheet, based on 150 gallons per resurfacing, 12 x daily, 48 weeks/year)

Article by Florian Gabriel, an enthusiastic Swiss economist, entrepreneur and fan of sustainable technologies. As former Trade Commissioner for Switzerland in Western Canada, Florian has led key initiatives for the Swiss Government & swisscleantech and keeps driving sustainable technologies to the Pacific Northwest. Florian can be reached at florian.gabriel@swisscleantech.ch

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Walter’s contributions to CleanTechies over the past 4 years have been instrumental in growing the publications social media channels via his ongoing editorial and data driven strategies. He is the founder and managing director of Sunflower Tax, a renewable energy tax and finance consultancy based in San Diego, California. Active in the San Diego clean technology community, participating in events sponsored by CleanTech San Diego, EcoTopics, and Cleantech Open San Diego, Walter has also been a presenter at numerous California Center for Sustainability (CCSE) programs. He currently serves as an adjunct professor at the University of San Diego School of Law where he teaches a course on energy taxation and policy.

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