Cheltenham Ice Rink, a seasonal outdoor installation that runs from 17 November until New Year’s Day, will be powered by biofuel generators this year, the BBC reports. The generators are run on hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO) which is considered to be a more sustainable and environmentally friendly alternative to fossil fuels.
The rink was due to be connected to the mains electricity grid, but the required upgrades have not been made and Cheltenham Borough Council have announced that the HVO powered generators will be used instead. A spokesperson claimed that this will reduce CO2 emissions by 86%, when compared to those from a diesel generator.
However, there is some disagreement as to whether the HVO generators are as green as they claim to be. Fuels derived from crops do help to reduce the reliance on fossil fuels, but they also release CO2 into the atmosphere when burned in significant amounts, as would be necessary to power an ice rink.
Biofuels are also known to release nitrogen oxide and other toxic particles into the atmosphere when they are burnt, which causes air pollution and can cause or exacerbate respiratory conditions such as asthma. There may even be links with the onset of certain types of cancer and early deaths in people who suffer from lung disease.
At a planning committee meeting in Cheltenham earlier this year, local resident Peter Grimley spoke out against the decision to use biofuel to power the ice rink.
He said: “When HVO is burned it releases this CO2. So the carbon absorbed by the feedstock probably in South East Asia is then released into Imperial Square.”
He added: “Outdoor ice rinks in temperate zones like Cheltenham require huge amounts of power. The only acceptable way to supply this amount of power is via the grid. Your decision last year was correct.”
However, Councillor Tony Oliver disagreed with this view, commenting: “Yes we should have a power source there but I do think for the economic good of the town we need this to keep Cheltenham vibrant at Christmas. It’s an important and difficult time for people and the economy generally.”
Max Wilkinson, economic development, culture, tourism and wellbeing cabinet member, said that the delays to the upgrading work to the grid meant that an alternative energy supply needed to be sought.
Mr Wilkinson said: “That is exactly what we are aiming to do this winter, by using an hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO) fuel and battery method. This innovative solution is being provided by a locally based company at the leading edge of its field.”
He added: “This technology will make a substantial cut in event emissions compared to a traditional diesel generator.”
The temporary outdoor ice rink proved to be very popular when it was last installed in 2021, attracting 43,000 extra visitors to the town.
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