Ice cream shop keeps cool with solar power

When hungry folks dig into a freezing-cold ice cream cone, the last thing they're thinking about is sustainable energy, but a Riversdale business is working to change that.

A partnership between The Scoop and Roots Rock Renewables, the small ice cream shack, which offers innercity and First Nations youth a summer employment opportunity, is energy neutral; five solar panels installed on the small structure's roof harness the power of the sun to help people cool down.

"We're super excited," said Chris Randall, a social worker with StreetForce Youth Centre, the group spearheading the project.

"It fits with, obviously, the social aspect of what we're trying to do, as well as making it more green and making the kids aware of some of the initiatives in terms of renewable energy," he said.

The structure itself was built using refurbished material from a nearby Riversdale house that was set for demolition.

Randall said he hopes the shop will attract environmentally and socially conscious customers.

"When people hear about what we're doing empowering First Nations youth and then to hear about the solar power and the technology involved there, I think that would be a draw for people," he said. "That's obviously our hope."

Brian Johnston, founder of Roots Rock Renewables, said getting involved with the project was an easy decision.

"It's just good for the community, it's good for The Scoop, it's good for the environment. It's a win-win for everybody," he said.

With costs hovering between $5,000 to $6,000, Roots Rock and Eco Tech Electric covered the price of both the material and the installation. All The Scoop had to supply was the roof.

Johnston said he hopes the successful installation will enlighten others about solar power. The amount of energy offset will be shared on a daily basis.

"People used to be apprehensive because of price ... and now solar is becoming one of those things where they're adopting it (and) they're seeing the benefits of it," he said.

"If you see it on a little ice cream shack on the corner, it's like 'Wow. This little ice cream shack can do it, why can't we do it?' " The idea is embraced by the Riversdale Business Improvement District. Executive director Randy Pshebylo said the project is symbolic of a new wave of business owners starting to call the community home. He said shops like The Scoop are important to attracting more pedestrians to the area.

"This is one more piece of the puzzle," he said. "The void was there and Pastor Chris and the others have stepped up in a unique and imaginative way to fill that void, and it just seems to fit with all the other pieces of the puzzle that are starting to come into play."