Going green brings dividends

Oak Bay has reduced electrical consumption by 18.6 per cent since 2007

Scott Craven drives the electric Zamboni at Oak Bay Recreation

Costs savings are glaring in the most obvious of places surrounding Recreation Oak Bay properties.

Upgrades this year ranged from LED lighting in parking lots and sensors in storage areas to turn off the lights when the room is empty to upgrades at the Henderson centre. They all add to the ongoing tradition of energy savings in the rec department that started more than two decades ago as simply a means to an end by then maintenance manager Ken Olson.

“I was trying to save money on my budget,” said Olson, who became operations and energy co-ordinator in 2012. “Now it’s much more than that. Now it’s conservation … being fiscally responsible and socially responsible.”

The work started in the 1990s, long before the District of Oak Bay signed on to the Climate Action Charter in 2007. Since that year, the district has reduced its electrical consumption by 18.6 per cent.

“We’ve lowered the municipality’s electric bill by one million kilowatt hours,” he said. That is equivalent to the electricity used by 95 homes for one year.

In the ongoing process, 2013 saw occupancy sensors added to a dozen rooms in the main rec centre; LED lighting in the mezzanine and bar at the main centre plus pot lights at Windsor, Monterey and the library.

Now no one needs to hand temper the pressure in the tennis bubble in preparation for impending wind storms. They are now insulated – one done in 2010 and the second last summer – to drop natural gas use there by half (estimated 70 tonnes GHG).

“When I first started at Oak Bay Rec, being energy efficient meant me running down to the tennis bubble with a wrench to adjust the vents every time the wind blew or stopped blowing. Now we have a computer-operated windspeed sensor that regulates pressure inside the bubble to minimize heat leakage,” he said. “You can save by lowering pressure so it’s not squeezing out every nook and cranny as fast.”

In 2011, among other projects, they purchased the first electric Zamboni on the Island. Projects are continual. In the pool, the lights were originally 1,000-watt bulbs, cut to 500 and now are 41-watt LEDs, yet another 2013 project. The pool also used to use an ozone disinfectant process that is “energy intensive”, Olson said, and after a 2009 study, they pitched it for UV upgrade.

“It saves a lot of energy, saves a lot of maintenance and really improves the water quality,” Olson said.

In 2014 they did upgrades to the DDC system and exhaust fan downsizing at Henderson; heating and ventilation upgrades at municipal hall and continuous optimization with reconditioning of the DDC system at Oak Bay Rec. The future includes plans to implement findings of the rec centre’s direct digital control system that monitors things like heating, ventilating and air conditioning.

“Once you see it in front of you, it’s almost criminal not to [make the changes],” Olson said.

Concepts under scrutiny for energy savings include REALice, a retrofit for rinks that removes micro air bubbles from the water used to resurface the ice.

“Your plant doesn’t have to run as hard,” Olson said, adding that trickles down into other savings in both funds and fuels.

LED street lights and lighting for the tennis bubbles; waste heat from the arena to use throughout the building on Bee Street; and swirl pool heat via the filter room are all under the scope as possible future projects.

“Leading by example has a positive impact on the entire community and helps develop a culture of change in regards to energy conservation and sustainability issues,” Olson said. “There’s new stuff that comes along all the time. …We’re never going to use nothing [but] there’s new stuff that comes along all the time.”

 

cvanreeuwyk@oakbaynews.com