The Ice Cream Depot keeps desserts frozen with help from the sun

For the last 30 years, The Ice Cream Depot has been the Guinness World Record holder for the largest ice cream sundae, just shy of 55,000 pounds; now they boast the seventh largest rooftop solar project in Western Canada.

Keeping all that ice cream frozen through the warm summer months in Alberta requires a lot of electricity. Few businesses know this better than the family-run company located in Leduc County.

In March, they opened up a new facility in Nisku Business Park that boasts 30,000 square feet of deep frozen (-30 Celsius) space, along with 20,000 square feet of refrigerated and dry storage capacity.

To help drive their energy costs down, the company worked with Inferno Solar to generate the energy that their new, expanded business needs. They installed 1,860 solar panels on the facility’s roof.

The project is expected to generate  0ver 700,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) per year and will cut over 350 tonnes of CO2 annually. That’s equal to the amount of energy use from 25 homes in one year.

“Our new facility is three times larger than our old depot and in order to sustain the increase in operating costs, we wanted to make it as efficient as possible and also be conscious of our carbon footprint,” said Jessica Rogiani, Finance Manager for the Ice Cream Depot.

She said, without knowing long-term electricity prices, it’s difficult to predict how much money they will save in energy costs, however, early data analysis shows the operating cost are tracking similar to their old facility, despite the fact it is three times larger.

“Our consumption per month is about 100,000 kilowatts of power, so I am forecasting we will be able to cut our energy consumption by about 50 per cent,” said Rogiani.

She said the Energy Savings for Business program was key to helping them make their new facility more energy efficient.

“The Energy Savings for Business program gave us the confidence to make the investment,” said Rogiani. “As a small business, when you are analyzing your upfront cost, it is important to consider your return on investment. With the help of funding from this program, we were able to accept the project and quantify the value for the long term.”

While the project was completed on time and on budget, it didn’t come without its challenges.

“This project had many challenges we had to overcome—high wind loads in the area, limited building structural capacity, surface gas lines, and many technical requirements to integrate with Fortis and the electricity grid,” said Curtis Craig, founder of Inferno Solar, the company that installed the solar panels.

“Our team of engineers and electricians worked together with all stakeholders to provide a solution that protects the roof and can be supported by the building structure. We rerouted gas lines around the solar panels and worked closely with Fortis to ensure the final installation was to their satisfaction. We did all of this without asking for a single change order, and we were on schedule.”

In addition to utilizing solar energy, the new facility also includes a natural CO2 refrigeration system that reuses the output heat from cooling the ice cream throughout the building into heating the flooring. This also replaces the toxic ammonia-based cooling system. All of the lighting in the facility is also comprised of motion sensors and LED light bulbs to further reduce energy consumption.

“All of these initiatives are important because it will ensure that we’re on the most sustainable path forward by reducing our carbon footprint, while simultaneously reducing our operating costs,” said Rogiani.

The Ice Cream Depot is the master distributor of Chapman’s Ice Cream for Alberta, as well as Blue Bunny, Mike’s Cups, and many unique brands for Western Canada.

To learn more about ERA’s Energy Savings for Business program and how you can generate your own energy savings, visit our website.