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Canals to Cool Businesses with No Upfront Cost

Waterside businesses in the U.K. could use canal water as an alternative to traditional air conditioning at no up-front cost, in a project being led by British Waterways.

The U.K. government-owned body signed an agreement with Linden Environmental, which will act as the exclusive sales agent for the project and will fully finance upfront switch-over costs. The two organizations will promote the project across England and Wales.

British Waterways says using canal water cooling in place of traditional air conditioning is more environmentally friendly and cost effective. The practice has been used by organizations such as the University of Huddersfield and pharmaceuticals company GlaxoSmithKline. Glaxo saved over £120,000 ($190,000) a year and 276 tons of carbon by switching from traditional air conditioning to cool its data centers, and subsequent improvements raised this saving to almost £200,000 a year, British Waterways says.

In the Glaxo system, water is pumped from the canal to a water chiller, and using a series of heat exchangers, is returned to the canal via a waterfall. The company says during the process the temperature of the water rises from between 4 and 9 degrees C, but as the water passes over the waterfall in a thin wide layer, some of the heat naturally evaporates. The cascade over the waterfall oxygenates the water in the canal, benefiting the flora and wildlife, and the flow of the water down the canal dissipates the heat quickly.

Glaxo worked on the project with the British Waterways Board and the U.K. Environment Agency, which conducted an environmental analysis to make sure that the canal was not adversely affected. At the time Glaxo estimated that if 1,000 waterside businesses nationwide could follow its lead by using canal water for heating or cooling, it would result in annual energy savings of about $162 million and reductions in carbon dioxide emissions of about one million tons.

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