New green machines bring Ice Rink glass-like smoothness

Ice Man

Julie McWilliams

Rink Manager Paul Caron smooths the ice with an energy-efficient Olympia ice-resurfacer.

One of the coldest buildings on campus is now one of the hottest, sustainability-wise.

The Penn Ice Rink at the Class of 1923 Arena hosts all sorts of ice events, and now will do so more efficiently with a few new green machines. A duo of new ice-resurfacing machines have already been put into service, and with support from the University’s Green Fund the arena will install a new water densification system this spring.

Rink Manager Paul Caron says the rink purchased a 1999 propane-fueled Olympia ice-resurfacer, equipped with the latest emissions-reducing technology, to replace two inefficient 1970 Zambonis. The resurfacer cuts away damage to the ice made by skate blades and hockey sticks, replacing it with a fresh layer of water that freezes to a glass-like smoothness.

In addition, the arena has replaced an aging gasoline-powered edger with a battery-operated, zero-emissions model that smooths the outside edges of the ice, where the larger machine can’t reach.

Green Machine

Julie McWilliams

Caron starts up the Ice Rink’s new zero-emissions, battery-powered edger.

The other machine designed to help save energy is the new water treatment system that will remove dissolved gases and minerals using a vortex process instead of heat.

Caron explains that to achieve a smooth ice surface across the entire rink, trapped air that occurs in water as it travels through the supply lines must be removed. Currently, the rink uses a steam boiler to heat the water to 180 degrees to remove the air, and then uses even more energy to freeze it. The new equipment “attaches to the intake lines and spins the water to remove the air,” he explains, “enabling us to avoid heating the water, which is expensive and inefficient.”

Penn is only the third facility in North America to use this vortex system, which is common in Europe, Caron adds. He projects that the cost of the new equipment will be recovered through energy savings in just a season and a half.

The Ice Rink offers discounts to PennCard holders. Skate rentals are also available.

Originally published on January 12, 2012