Hockey arena gets creative with geoexchange technology

In the process of researching an article about a Sydney, Nova Scotia-based company called Advanced Glazings, I learned about the design and construction of the Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre and hockey arena in the small Cape Breton town. In addition to using Advanced Glazing’s insulating glaze to allow natural sunlight inside the hockey rink — a North American first, I believe — the architect in charge of building the complex also got creative with geoexchange (low-temperature geothermal or heat-pump) technology.

Roughly 75,000 linear feet of geothermal loop were laid six feet below the ground and served as the core of the geoexchange system. But on top of this, architect Bob Ojolick and Winnipeg-based heat-pump specialist Ice Kube Systems decided to take advantage of waste heat resulting from the rink’s ice-making process.

You know all that steam that you usually see coming out the back of hockey rinks? That’s the byproduct heat from the refrigeration system used to make arena ice and keep it cool. Instead of letting all that steam just go into the air — which most arena’s sadly do — the Port Hawkesbury team built a system that would recover the heat.

What do they do with it? Well, the bleachers and floors in the arena, as well as some sidewalks outside of the arena, are lined with a loop system that carries food-grade ethanol. The ethanol carries the captured waste heat through the arena, providing enough radiant heating to keep the entire complex comfortable.

“It’s so successful that in the middle of February last year they had enough waste heat to send outside and melt the snow on the sidewalks,” Ojolick told me in an interview.

He figures the cost of putting in the system added a few per cent to the overall price tag of the complex, with an estimated payback of 10 years on that premium taking into account the savings of not having an energy-intensive boiler at the back of the building. No natural gas, oil or electricity is required for heating. The radiant heating, and even hot water for the showers and sinks, is all provided through the heat-pump system.

It’s an amazing case study that shows how much communities can do by thinking outside the box. It also demonstrates that even with a tight budget, those willing to pay a little more on the front end will see substantial gains over time and have the environmental bragging rights that go with it.

By the way, my feature on Advanced Glazings will appear next Monday. It’s another interesting example of how new technologies — in this case high-tech glaze for windows — are making it easier for architects to design green, sustainable buildings. I’ll post the story here when it’s out.

DynaMotive moves forward with Nova Scotia bio-oil facility

Vancouver-based DynaMotive Energy Systems has signed an interim project development agreement with E & R Langille Contracting Ltd. for a potential 500 tonne a day BioOil production facility. The feedstock will be wood chips and other biomass. A site in Pictou, N.S., has been chosen, initial technical and economic studies have been completed, and the next steps are to come up with details for project capitalization, ownership structure and technology licensing.

“The proposed plant is expected to be completed in two stages, comprised of an initial 200 tpd (tonnes per day) facility with a further module to be added subsequently,” according to a company release. “The parties have confirmed access to 500 tonnes per day of biomass for the proposed plant.”

DynaMotive announced on July 12 that there was a potential to build such a plant in Nova Scotia. The company considers this most recent announcement a major step forward, and a strong followup to its West Lorne facility.

Kyocera “spherical silicon” approach sounds familiar

Seems ATS Automation’s Spheral Solar isn’t the only one using tiny silicon balls in the production of solar PV cells. Kyocera, the world’s second-largest solar cell manufacturer, plans to start shipping a lower-cost solar panel early next year that uses one-fifth the silicon of its traditional panels. “The new panel sharply reduces silicon usage by lining up spherical silicon measuring 1mm or less in diameter on non-silicon substrate,” according to an AsiaPulse report. “The design also eliminates the need to cut the panel to make finished products, sharply lowering material waste.”

At first glance it seems remarkably similar to Spheral Solar’s approach, as described in an article I wrote in July 2004:

“At the heart of Spheral Solar’s technology are tiny silicon balls that look like poppy seeds. The ‘seeds’ come from scrap silicon used by the semiconductor industry, and each one is capable of capturing sunlight and converting it into electricity. A unique property of silicon is that, when melted, tiny spherical balls are naturally formed. Spheral Solar takes those mini-spheres and drops them into holes that have been punched into a flexible aluminium sheet. It then bonds another aluminium sheet to the top and coats the whole strip with a Teflon-protected plastic coasting.”

It’s no secret that solar PV panel manufacturers are looking for ways to not only reduce costs but to also reduce their reliance on silicon. Minimizing waste, and using less silicon that is also lower grade accomplishes the goal quite well for Kyocera and Spheral Solar.

It’s difficult to say whether Kyocera, by using this approach, is good or bad news for Spheral. On the one hand Kyocera is a serious player and competitive threat. However, Spheral Solar has an edge because its product has a head-start, and by entering the market Kyocera may in fact lend credibility to Spheral Solar’s product.

Sprott Securities analyst MacMurray Whale points out that the two have significantly different manufacturing approaches and architectures but are “mighty close” from a superficial level. It’s possible, he says, that Spheral Solar will be motivated to move much faster into the market in light of Kyocera’s plans, but the key will be Spheral Solar’s ability to have its product integrated into building materials.

Kyocera “spherical silicon” approach sounds familiar

Seems ATS Automation’s Spheral Solar isn’t the only one using tiny silicon balls in the production of solar PV cells. Kyocera, the world’s second-largest solar cell manufacturer, plans to start shipping a lower-cost solar panel early next year that uses one-fifth the silicon of its traditional panels. “The new panel sharply reduces silicon usage by lining up spherical silicon measuring 1mm or less in diameter on non-silicon substrate,” according to an AsiaPulse report. “The design also eliminates the need to cut the panel to make finished products, sharply lowering material waste.”

At first glance it seems remarkably similar to Spheral Solar’s approach, as described in an article I wrote in July 2004:

“At the heart of Spheral Solar’s technology are tiny silicon balls that look like poppy seeds. The ‘seeds’ come from scrap silicon used by the semiconductor industry, and each one is capable of capturing sunlight and converting it into electricity. A unique property of silicon is that, when melted, tiny spherical balls are naturally formed. Spheral Solar takes those mini-spheres and drops them into holes that have been punched into a flexible aluminium sheet. It then bonds another aluminium sheet to the top and coats the whole strip with a Teflon-protected plastic coasting.”

It’s no secret that solar PV panel manufacturers are looking for ways to not only reduce costs but to also reduce their reliance on silicon. Minimizing waste, and using less silicon that is also lower grade accomplishes the goal quite well for Kyocera and Spheral Solar.

It’s difficult to say whether Kyocera, by using this approach, is good or bad news for Spheral. On the one hand Kyocera is a serious player and competitive threat. However, Spheral Solar has an edge because its product has a head-start, and by entering the market Kyocera may in fact lend credibility to Spheral Solar’s product.

Sprott Securities analyst MacMurray Whale points out that the two have significantly different manufacturing approaches and architectures but are “mighty close” from a superficial level. It’s possible, he says, that Spheral Solar will be motivated to move much faster into the market in light of Kyocera’s plans, but the key will be Spheral Solar’s ability to have its product integrated into building materials.

Railpower enters new phase…

A former VP at Bombardier Transportation is replacing Jim Maier as president and CEO of Railpower Technologies Corp. as the company begins full-scale production of its hybrid yard and road switcher locomotives. Jose Mathieu has a mechanical engineering background and was a 23-year veteran of Bombardier Transportation. His experience at Bombardier and the network he brings to the table will serve Railpower well as it enters this full-scale production phase. I anticipate analysts will be happy with this appointment, which comes as no surprise. Railpower announced in October that Maier would be stepping down because of personal issues.

Maier, who served as CEO for three years, plans to stay on Railpower’s board of directors. Kudos to the man for building the company into a Canadian success story. In the past year alone Railpower has secured some major orders from some of the highest profile railway operators in North American, including Canadian Pacific Railway. The company is fortunate to have him stay on as a board member and advisor.

For my most recent posts on Railpower, read here and here.