Pettit National Ice Center Improves Sustainability

Competition is about precision.

For elite athletes, less than an inch or a hundredth of a second can mean the difference between winning and losing – a place on the medal stand or a spot in the crowd.

The same is true in industry, where new technology can mean the difference between efficient and inefficient – productive or not.

Precision is top-of-mind for the Pettit National Ice Center. Precise ice, air temperatures and humidity are critical to peak performance for speed skaters.

The latest upgrade by Rockwell Automation allowed us to generate and manage those ideal conditions, while operating in a more environmentally and financially sustainable mode. 

Supporting Elite Training and Community Skating

The Pettit National Ice Center is the first indoor speed skating oval in the United States. Using distributed control system software, the facility — built in 1992 — reduced energy use and improved ice quality for training athletes, as well as its active-lifestyle customer base in southeastern Wisconsin.

We’re a complex facility that must adjust to meet the expectations of a wide variety of users, from recreational to competitive.

In addition to a specialization in speed skating, we welcome more than 425,000 visitors each year, creating ideal ice and air conditions for everything from hockey to figure skating.

With this level of specialization came soaring energy costs. Our technology could not respond quickly to changing consumer demands and required onsite programming. Our long-term viability as a community asset and the training venue for athletes from around the world became a concern.

Migration Yields Immediate Benefits

We needed a solution that addressed our goals for precision, sustainability and flexibility, as well as remote, yet secure, access.

With in-kind product donations and expert guidance from Rockwell Automation, we migrated from dated technology to a PlantPAx distributed control system. With new visualization and recipe management, as well as remote access, energy monitoring/management and diagnostics/alarming, I can now: 

  • Program with precision the type of ice we need and for how long we need it – more than 30 days in advance
  • Monitor and reduce energy use
  • Receive alarms on my mobile device to remotely diagnose and troubleshoot

An efficient building is crucial to energy savings. I can now maintain the ideal balance between two opposing systems (one that heats the air and manages humidity levels, and the other that cools the ice). The ability to constantly vary air and ice temperatures lessens the load on compressors and allows pumps to slow down. Everything is more efficient.

Precise Control and Leading Technology Ensure Excellence

I expected significant energy savings, but what we achieved amazed me.

With the new system, we reduced electric usage by one million kilowatts a year, saving $90,000 annually. Integrating a new heat recovery system reduced consumption of natural gas by 35 percent and water usage by two million gallons.

News story: The Pettit National Ice Center celebrates 25 years.

These results are critical for us, because they allow us to invest the savings to renew equipment and mechanical systems in a 25-year old facility, again with the focus on improved efficiency and precision.

Everything in the “backroom” is unnoticed by our average skater, hockey player and runner, but they do appreciate high quality ice and pleasant air temperatures.

I appreciate being able to monitor and manage the center’s plant systems wherever I might be: at work, at home, or in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Paul Golomski
Posted January 31, 2018 By Paul Golomski , Facility Director, Pettit National Ice Center
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