Ottawa company designs eco-friendly ice resurfacing technology

Ron Albert was inspired to design something that could recycle the 700 liters of water it takes to flood an ice rink instead of dumping it outside.

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Even after 30 years of working on stadiums with the City of Ottawa, Ron Albert was always surprised by the mountains of snow the Zambonis dumped off the slopes.

“When we went out to throw the snow, I kept thinking, ‘Why are we throwing this?’ Snow turns into water. Why would we be wasting that?’” she said.

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As the costs of water, electricity, gas and organized sports rose, Albert was inspired to design something that could recycle the 700 liters of water needed to flood an ice rink instead of throwing it away.

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Conceptualizing designs for an eco-friendly ice resurfacing solution became his passion project. He spent hours at his kitchen table working on modernization designs and sharing ideas with his friends.

Over the past 10 years, his company, GREINS Environmental Technologies, has designed and patented the first retrofit technology that can be installed in any ice resurfacing machine, including Zambonis, which recycles ice chips through reheating and filtering processes instead of Dispose of them outdoors.

While “Zamboni” has become the common term in hockey, Albert usually ends up correcting people who use the term about his product.

“Zamboni is just a brand like Kleenex,” he said. “Our patent is not just for Zambonis. “It covers all resurfacing machines.”

Along with his colleagues at GREINS (an acronym for Green Renewable Energy Ice N’ Snow), Albert recently struck a deal on the Dragons’ Den TV show as the company prepares to market the product and begin sales.

Albert’s speech projected that the technology would save approximately 8 million liters of water per year for a two-rig installation, equivalent to thousands of annual hydroelectric savings.

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While working in their company’s garage in Chesterville, Ontario, a town southeast of Ottawa, the team reviewed several designs before arriving at the final product.

Albert said the last 10 years have been a test of resilience for him and his team. “The first product didn’t melt the snow fast enough, we had to try different things, like different tubular beams.

“My dad always taught me to never give up; there’s always a way to do something, and you just have to figure it out and find a way that works.”

Albert spent most of his childhood surrounded by engines and machines. His father was a machinist and taught him how to take things apart and put them back together. “I love working with my hands and I’ve always been good at it,” Albert said.

Since the show aired, he said the newfound community fame has been “something to get used to.”

He said people now recognize him at Tim Hortons and stop to thank him for putting the community on the map.

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