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Man earns grant for eco car wash

Fast doors at Rock-N-Wash to save carbon and cash for Sturgeon county owner
0309 CarWashGrant 2012_04_02_Rock_n_Wash_049 jk
ROCKIN' IDEA — Sylvain Blouin, shown here dressed as Elvis near the future site of the original Rock-N-Wash car wash in 2012, got a grant from Emissions Reduction Alberta on Sept. 1, 2022, to help fund construction of a bigger, more energy-efficient car wash. The $277,700 grant is to help pay for super-fast garage doors that will reduce heat losses. JOHN KROETCH/Photo

A Sturgeon County businessman has received a provincial grant to help build a net-zero, water-saving, rock-and-rolling car wash.

Emissions Reduction Alberta (ERA) announced Sept. 1 that it had awarded Rock-N-Wash $277,700 to fund the company’s net-zero car wash in Strathcona County.

The ERA is distributing some $55 million in federal and provincial money through the Energy Savings for Business Program to help small businesses cut costs and reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, said chief operating officer Heather Stephens. Grants such as this one are meant to offset the often high up-front cost of new energy-saving technologies.

Rock-N-Wash is the work of Sturgeon County entrepreneur Sylvain Blouin, who opened the original Rock-N-Wash outlet in Edmonton in 2013. The 1950s-/1960s-themed outlet was the first publicly accessible business in Alberta that was legally allowed to use recycled water (greywater) in its operations.

Blouin said he sold that outlet in around 2017 to spend more time with his wife after she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Now, he is working on a new 37,000-square-foot facility near Millennium Place in Strathcona County — the first in what he hopes will become a national chain.

“Power and water, the car wash industry is a guzzler for both of those utilities,” Blouin said.

Blouin said this new car wash will have about 894 solar modules on its roof which will produce enough power to make the facility net-zero in terms of electricity use. (ERA granted him $240,000 to support the panels.) It will also have a greywater system that should cut the facility’s water use by about 80 per cent.

“We’re reducing our month-to-month utility costs significantly,” Blouin said, which means higher profits.

Blouin said this latest grant will cover about half the cost of the facility’s garage doors, which are super-efficient models which move about 250-per-cent faster than conventional ones.

“We can go like 100 inches a second,” he said (roughly 2.5 metres per second), adding that he didn’t plan to have the doors move quite that fast.

The Strathcona location could see 90 cars drive through its doors an hour, resulting in 180 door cycles, Blouin said, when asked about the doors. Each door cycle would spit heat out of the building, wasting energy and money.

Blouin said these fast doors should reduce fogging due to cold air for his customers and keep more heat in the building, preventing some 235 tonnes of greenhouse-gas emissions and saving him about $47,300 a year.

“It’s the perfect fit for any kind of enterprise … that has a high volume of entrances and exits to their facility,” Blouin said of these doors, and they have significant environmental benefits.

Blouin said it feels great to be recognized by the province, adding that these grants could encourage more companies to recycle water and aim for net-zero.

“It sends a really positive message to the community at large,” he said of such efforts, and it means better prices for his customers.

Blouin said he hopes to start construction of the Strathcona Rock-N-Wash next spring.

Kevin Ma

About the Author: Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.
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