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Canal cooling plan for GlaxoSmithKline

GlaxoSmithKline is using canal water and heat exchange technology to replace the traditional air conditioning system at its west London headquarters.

The pharmaceutical giant is working in partnership with British Waterways to set up the scheme which it claims will cut carbon dioxide emissions by 920 tonnes at its head office.

British Waterways, which manages 2,200 miles of canals and rivers, estimates that a further 1,000 waterside businesses nationwide could use canal water for heating or cooling.

Tony Hales, British Waterways’ chairman, comments: “Whilst the principle of using heat exchange technology to heat and cool buildings has been proven over a number of years in Northern Europe, harnessing the full heat exchange environmental opportunity afforded by Britain’s 200 year old network of canals and rivers is relatively new.

“The nation’s waterways have long provided a green network for boats, bikes, walkers and wildlife but they can do even more to help Britain become a cleaner and more sustainable place. 

“The genius of the waterways is that, 200 years after they were first built, they continue to adapt and contribute to modern society.  We are only at the start of unlocking their full potential.”

The initiative uses recyclable water from the Grand Union Canal to primarily cool GlaxoSmithKline’s computer data centre via heat exchangers and a water-cooled chiller. 

The Environment Agency had to review the proposals and assess their potential environmental impact as water is returned to the canal slightly warmer than it was taken in.

Duncan Learmouth, Senior Vice President Corporate Communications and Global Community Partnerships at GlaxoSmithKline, said: “GlaxoSmithKline is committed to seeking innovative solutions to improve the environmental performance of the company.

“This approach will enable us to use a readily available source of water to cool our building – reducing the carbon dioxide emissions at our London headquarters 

“As well as making good business sense with a five year pay back of more than £100,000 of annual energy savings, the Grand Union Canal project is also one of our global sustainability initiatives that demonstrate our commitment to reducing GlaxoSmithKline’s impact on the environment.”

British Waterways believes another 1,000 waterside businesses could take advantage of the cooling and heating potential of the 2,200 miles of canals and rivers it oversees.
It calculates this would result in annual energy savings of £100million and reductions in carbon dioxide emissions of approximately one million tonnes.

It says this is equivalent to some 400,000 family sized cars being taken off the roads.  

British Waterways says any income generated from the initiative would be reinvested into looking after the nation’s canal network.