Geothermal system saves Plymouth Cultural Center, Ice Arena big bucks

Plymouth is putting its ice arena's high gas bills on ice.

With its first gas bill after the installation of a geothermal heating and cooling system, the Plymouth Cultural Center and Ice Arena's savings are already running into the thousands of dollars. Steve Anderson, the city's recreation director, says the 2008 and 2009 September gas bills were $4,600 and $4,100; last month's was about $800. "We're excited to see how things pan out," he says.

The whole system is expected to be fully functional by the end of this week. The ice arena has been up and running for about two months.

Anderson explains that the system's efficiency not only costs less, but makes for better skating conditions. With smaller, more efficient compressors that kick on only as needed, the whole system doesn't fire up unless necessary. "Because they're smaller capacity units with multiple phases, they're only using what they need," Anderson says.

"Hockey likes hard, fast ice, and no standing water, which means the puck stops," he explains. "When we lay 140-degree water and it's snap freezing in 30-40 seconds, the surface is faster, the puck won't hit water, and it creates a better surface for the user."

Plus, the arena can now use the heat taken from the water elsewhere in the building. "The Zamboni puts down 140-degree water, and that's energy we've already paid for," he says. "We're (now) pulling heat out of the ice surface and sending it to other parts of the buildings."

Geothermal is seen as the top-of-the-line energy efficient heating and cooling system. There are other geothermal ice arenas in the United States and Canada, but this is Michigan's first.

The $1.1 million project was paid for by the city's general fund. Anderson gave credit to the city commission for being proactive and replacing an aging system, original to the 1972 building, that likely would have been due for an upgrade soon anyway. Electric bill savings will be apparent during the hotter summer months.

The facility, at 525 Farmer Road, houses an ice rink, meeting rooms, banquet rooms, and recreation department offices.

Source: Steve Anderson, recreation director, city of Plymouth
Writer: Kristin Lukowski
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