By GUY WILLIAMS
Queenstown Ice Arena’s path towards zero emissions has taken a leap forward with the arrival of the country’s first electric Zamboni.
Rink co-owner Ted Graham says the Zamboni, a tractor-like machine that smooths the ice, arrived from Austria recently, and had its first spin on the rink last Monday.
Graham, who owns and runs the rink with brother Dan, says they’re expecting the 2005-model machine to be 60% cheaper to operate than its 33-year-old predecessor, which operates on LPG.
As well as cutting their LPG use, they’re expecting savings from the reduced maintenance required by its electric motor, and because the rink’s dehumidifier and refrigeration plant
won’t have to work as hard to deal with the heat and moisture generated by the old machine.
‘‘It should pay for itself in a few years.’’
The Zamboni’s ‘‘basically a huge razor blade’’ they use several times a day to remove the grooves made by skates, Graham says.
It then leaves a fresh coat of ice.
Twice as heavy as their old machine, it puts more pressure on the ice while it’s operating, which means it leaves a better-quality surface.
‘‘So it’s really a win all round.
‘‘We hope more people and businesses will choose to go electric as much as they can.
‘‘The savings are definitely there over the long run.’’
The $80,000 machine came with a complete overhaul and new batteries.
A new one costs about $300,000.
Graham says because their power supplier’s Meridian Energy — a renewables-only power generator — the only fossil fuel they’re still using is LPG for heating the water going into the Zamboni for ice resurfacing.
While he reckons that makes their rink one of the ‘‘cleanest’’ in the world, they’re not resting on their laurels.
They’ve been looking at alternative ways to heat the water, and although an economic solution has yet to appear, they’re hoping improving technology will eventually provide an
Longer term, they want to harness the power of the sun to keep the ice cold, he says.
‘‘One day we’re hoping we could cover the whole roof with solar panels, and have the rink offset a lot of its power use with its own solar power production.
‘‘We’re evaluating this as costs come down for solar every year.’’
Graham adds they’re also on the lookout for advertisers who might want to put their logo on the new Zamboni.