British Waterways, the organisation responsible for the country's canals and rivers, has signed an agreement with environmental consultancy Linden Environmental to promote the use of canal water to cool waterside buildings, including data centres, across England and Wales. Linden is now British Waterways’ sales agent and can also finance the cost of switching to canal water use, making it a more attractive financially.
Using canal water cooling rather than air conditioning is clearly more environmentally friendly and cost effective. It’s particularly attractive for data centres, which can use much of their power to keep IT equipment cool. Water can drawn in from a river or canal and run past a heat exchanger on the other side of which is water carrying heat from the data centre. The heat transfers to the river/canal water which is returned to the source 6-8 degrees warmer and then dissipates.
Among those already using canal water in this way are GlaxoSmithKline, who use it for the data centre housed in their global HQ in London (see the previous blog), and National Rail's data centre, in the Mailbox centre in Birmingham. GlaxoSmithKline apparently saved over £120k a year and 276 tons of carbon by switching from traditional air conditioning and subsequent improvements have raised this saving to almost £200k a year.
Paul Adams, marketing director of Linden, said: “Our target is put in place enough schemes to remove the equivalent of 40,000 vehicles’ CO2 emissions each year”.
I guess that the possibility of using canals and rivers in this way is gaining more interest, hence the appointment of Linden. Although since the initial publicity around the GlaxoSmithKline implementation – in June 2009 – I haven’t heard much more.
It’s also worth noting that after I first wrote about the British Waterways proposals I heard from Netherlands-based, data centre specialist Deerns. The company pointed out that the experience in the Netherlands is that in high summer the canal/river water is already so hot that almost no temperature rise is allowed in the cooling water. Consequently, the data centre has to have its own chiller plant as a redundant facility, but the chiller has to be designed to work in the summer, so it creates a high power demand, which many data centres already have problems with. Ideally you would want to have a system that reduces this peak summer requirement. Back then Deerns was looking into thermal storage using underground aquifers.
As far as British Waterways is concerned, this year the canals and rivers the organisation looks after will transfer to the ownership of a charity called the Canal & River Trust. It remains to be seen what happens after that.