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Industrial Age canals tackle 21st century climate crisis: Research proves canals can cool UK’s overheating cities


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PRESS RELEASE

 

19th October 2021  

 

INDUSTRIAL AGE CANALS REINVENTED TO TACKLE 21ST CENTURY CLIMATE CHANGE CRISIS

Research proves it is ‘cool’ to be by canals in the UK’s overheating towns and cities

Photos available on Dropbox

 

As global attention focuses on climate change at the UK’s COP26 conference in November, the Canal & River Trust charity is highlighting how the nation’s 200-year-old canals offer huge ‘blue’ opportunities to help Britain tackle the climate change crisis.

 

Following dereliction and decline in the 20th century, today’s canals are enjoying a second golden age to help drive the ‘Green Industrial Revolution’.

 

The modern-day benefits of historic canals include heat transfer technology, which enables canal water to heat and cool more than a quarter of a million UK homes and businesses, flood mitigation by providing extra urban drainage, and more electricity generated through hydro generators. The widespread network of canals is also able to move water from areas of plenty to areas of drought, provides off-road towpaths perfectly placed for sustainable transport, and connects otherwise fragmented wildlife habitat to address biodiversity loss. And moving freight on larger commercial waterways remains a green alternative, removing hundreds of articulated lorry journeys from the roads.

 

Research published today by the Canal & River Trust and University of Manchester shows the presence of canal water in urban areas can also cool Britain’s overheating cities during heatwaves by up to 1.6 degrees Celsius in a 100-metre-wide corridor along the waterway.

 

Richard Parry, chief executive at Canal & River Trust, said: “Our network of canals and river navigations flowing through the hearts of Britain’s towns and cities are perfectly placed to tackle the challenges wrought by climate change, offering opportunities to provide ‘net zero’ solutions and climate change mitigation.

 

“With the right investment, our waterways will play an important role in meeting the aspirations of COP26. They can cool cities in summer, heat homes in winter, provide low-carbon energy, transfer water to where it’s needed and take it away from places where it’s not, and provide a network to move goods and materials, connect important wildlife habitat and offer sustainable transport. The canals are ready to be the arteries of the new Green Industrial Revolution.”

 

The University of Manchester research creates a new model which shows the extent to which urban waterways cool cities, where the ‘urban heat island’ effect plus a warming climate threatens to make summers intolerable. The research conducted across Birmingham, London and Manchester shows reductions in summer temperatures of up to 1.6 degrees Celsius, without undesirable cooling in winter, and demonstrates the importance of choosing the right type, height, scale and location of waterside buildings to maximise the benefits. 

 

Richard continued: “This research proves the important role waterways play in reducing temperatures where and when it’s needed most. This valuable knowledge should be used to inform urban planning and design and, combined with a full package of waterway benefits, can make a significant ‘blue’ contribution towards mitigating the damaging effects of climate change. We ask central government, local authorities, planners and developers to work with us to help make a real difference.”

 

Dr Joanne Tippett, from University of Manchester, said: “The canals in our cities were a product of the Industrial Revolution, a time of great innovation. Adapting to climate change will require new thinking and ways of working, and this research shows the importance of working across disciplines and in partnership. Bringing together our industrial heritage with new technologies and cutting-edge research like this can help us create urban areas where people and nature thrive in a more sustainable future.”

 

The Trust is working with partners on a range of projects that support the Government’s decarbonisation agenda and tackling the physical effects of climate change.

 

Heating and cooling. Water-sourced heat pumps have the potential in the UK to heat and cool a quarter of a million waterside homes, as well as other commercial buildings, saving well over a million tonnes per year of CO2 entering the atmosphere compared to more traditional energy sources. The technology is helping to heat and cool buildings at large commercial sites such as GlaxoSmithKline’s canal-side headquarters in London, the Hepworth Wakefield art gallery, the Mailbox shopping and media centre in Birmingham, York’s Guildhall, and Dollar Bay and Baltimore Tower in London’s Docklands. The Trust is also involved in big infrastructure projects like Nottingham’s District Heating Network where waterways are used to cool the generation plant.

 

Low-carbon energy. The Trust’s waterways support hydro schemes generating around 21MWh per year, the equivalent energy for around 10,000 homes, with the potential to create a further 17MWh of hydro power for adjacent buildings and developments, particularly those located near weirs and locks.

 

Low carbon transport. In order to reach net zero emissions by 2050, the UK urgently needs to improve the country’s active travel infrastructure to promote walking and cycling. The Trust has worked with many local councils and developers in recent years to lay all-weather surfaces on towpaths to provide off-road routes for sustainable transport into our towns and cities, with year-round access also encouraging people to stay local and discover the waterside destinations on their doorstep. In addition, thousands of tonnes of freight are moved every year on the Trust’s canals and rivers, where lower carbon emissions make them a green alternative that removes hundreds of articulated lorry journeys from the roads.

 

Water supply and land drainage. Three of the UK’s five wettest winters on record have occurred in the past eight years, causing flood damage as intense storms follow in close succession. The Trust’s waterways accept over 2,500 drainage discharges, relieving the strain on overflowing urban surface water systems. The network offers the opportunity for new sustainable urban drainage schemes to connect to the Trust’s waterways to remove surplus surface water. Conversely, increased temperatures, due to climate change, will exacerbate summer water stress in coming years. The Trust’s waterways can play an important role in transferring water across England and Wales, from areas with a surplus of water, to those with higher levels of water stress such as London and the south.

 

Nature recovery.  Many waterside habitats have become fragmented or have vanished from the countryside entirely, making canals especially valuable habitats and much-needed corridors for wildlife. For some species, the Trust’s waterways are among their last remaining strongholds, and, for many others, they provide vital resources now scarce in the wider countryside. Canals and rivers are helping to slow the loss of wildlife in the UK, helping to connect isolated natural habitats, so wildlife can spread, recover, and thrive again.

 

 

For the Trust, keeping the aging waterways fit for purpose is a constant challenge. This winter it is carrying out 168 large-scale works, across 48 different waterways, replacing lock gates, repairing masonry and brickwork, fixing leaks, updating and installing hydraulics and electrics at mechanised structures, as well as ongoing works to ensure resilience at several canal-feeding reservoirs.

 

For more information on the role the waterways play in combatting climate change, including a video about the urban cooling research, please visit the Trust’s website.

 

To read the University of Manchester’s research report, please click here

 

Photos of Birmingham, London and Manchester canal locations are available on Dropbox: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/x0kk6vd1dr0l2xo/AAAwvloxxr5Y6Q50Tlhw5dlxa?dl=0

 

-ends-

 

For further media requests please contact:

Fran Read, Canal & River Trust

m 07796 610 427 e fran.read@canalrivertrust.org.uk

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I wonder if I can just drop a water source heat pump into the cut at the end of my garden to heat and cool my home?

 

If a quarter of a million homes use water source heat pumps to heat their homes in winter, will we have to contend with speeding ice skaters as well as speeding cyclists?

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I'm a bit concerned about them using canals for hydro-electric purposes as I fear CRT will tap into leaking lock gates and then use this as an excuse not to maintain them. Similar to them currently using natural habitat as an excuse for leaving long sections of canalside towpath overgrowth alone.

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11 minutes ago, ditchcrawler said:

Didn't BW once put a heatpump in a service block up in Scotland using canal water as the source. Didn't some power stations use canal water in the past

 

 

Just like a lot of things (e.g. separating bogs) it's OK when a few do it, but not everyone. 

 

If the canals are festooned with millions of submerged heat pump collectors, they will either freeze solid or at least have millions of submerged giant ice lollies for all the boats to ride over.

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40 minutes ago, ditchcrawler said:

Didn't BW once put a heatpump in a service block up in Scotland using canal water as the source. Didn't some power stations use canal water in the past

 

The GSK building in Brentford has uses heat taken from the Gramg Union

Edited by Tim Lewis
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38 minutes ago, MtB said:

Although it is tempting to lapse into scepticism or even scathing cynicism, we should remember the point of such a press release is to influence government ministers into supporting the canal system from public funds. 

 

Picking holes and pointing out (imagined!) shortcomings in all the benefits of canals set out in the press release, inevitably undermines this effort. 

Spot on, the press release is obviously timed to coincide with the Glasgow shindig and the probably over optimistic blah about power gen,  heat sinks and freight aside the rest is exactly what the Gov seem to be working towards and it's always a good idea to remind them that the canals exist.

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7 hours ago, ditchcrawler said:

Didn't BW once put a heatpump in a service block up in Scotland using canal water as the source. Didn't some power stations use canal water in the past

When Singer sewing machines had factory at Kilbowie. They used the then disused Forth Clyde Canal for cooling.

Someone had released some gold fish into the canal, because of the water being  warmer than usual they had grown to a good size and reproduced prolifically. This was when I was last there in 1965.

 

See the source image

Edited by Ray T
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1 hour ago, Tim Lewis said:

 

The GSK building in Brentford has uses heat taken from the Gramg Union

Pretty sure some of the Paddington basin buildings including M&S use the basin water with heat pumps. In 2010 Winter (the last great Winter), it only froze over for a couple of days, the channel towards Little Venice was 2" thick for weeks

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Water cooling as stated has been used for canal side industries since the nineteenth century. Birchills Power Station at Walsall pumped water from the Ansons Branch.

 

It is an interesting pot -pouri of ideas compiled by the CRT, but as to practicality is another matter.

 

The whole concept of carbon neutral may be a modern aim, but is it really understood what it is and the benefits which accrue. Also to what extent is it achievable. Fires and Volcanic activity all add to the gases that pass into the atmosphere. How do you stop farm animals releasing the methane that adds to the carbon rich gases?

 

The present targets include power stations, gas boilers, internal combustion engines and a modern solution for the house hold is the expensive heat pump. But what will the future be for the boat owner if diesel becomes a rare commodity.  Will there be electric boats with regularly charging points? Will the hydrogen fuel cell become popular. Will stoves in cabins be banned?

 

A Green canal to me is the smothering weed that kills life underneath. But then if the weed is harvested, dried, and burnt in a carbon neutral way, like coal should  carbonised may be some energy could be derived. Or if dried and bagged could it be a fertilizer?

 

The CRT have many more options to consider and MAY BE they will stop wasting money on meaningless signs. 

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10 hours ago, cuthound said:

I wonder if I can just drop a water source heat pump into the cut at the end of my garden to heat and cool my home?

 

If a quarter of a million homes use water source heat pumps to heat their homes in winter, will we have to contend with speeding ice skaters as well as speeding cyclists?

Probably not at the same time. 2 wheels on ice have roughly the same directional stability as the average audi driver.

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13 hours ago, buccaneer66 said:

Ooh imagine the pain if you slip off.

Anyone remember the Viz spoof advert for "Clag-Gone"? Looked very similar IIRC... 😉

 

 

clag-gone.png

Edited by IanD
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4 hours ago, TheBiscuits said:

 

CRT had one installed on a larger boat in Gloucester.

 

https://www.kensaheatpumps.com/ground-source-review-sabrina-5-canal-barge/

 

 

I looked in some detail into the possibility of fitting a heat pump/aircon to the boat I'm having built next year, for both cooling in summer and heating in winter.

 

https://www.advanceyacht.co.uk/marine-air-conditioning-units-all/p/frigomar-scu16vfd

 

The numbers made sense -- fuel consumption at least 40% lower than a diesel heater, more if some energy comes from solar, the two problems were finding space in a narrowboat to duct the air and the need for freshwater cooling -- plus the fact it won't work as a heater with input water below 4C, which could be a problem in winter. Also not exactly cheap...

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1 hour ago, IanD said:

The numbers made sense -- fuel consumption at least 40% lower than a diesel heater, more if some energy comes from solar, the two problems were finding space in a narrowboat to duct the air and the need for freshwater cooling -- plus the fact it won't work as a heater with input water below 4C, which could be a problem in winter. Also not exactly cheap...

 

We looked at putting in 'air-con'(heating and cooling) into the Cat using sea-water for the cooling / heating. The manufacturers said it was OK(ish) in Southern UK sea water but would not generate a huge amount of heat, and, anywhere Noth of roughly latitude 53 degrees ( sort of Lincolnshire to Liverpool) it would not be at all viable with virtually no heat produced.

 

Colder, less-saline waters come from the Baltic Sea through the Skagerrak, creating a counterclockwise circulation in the basin. ... Average January temperatures of North Sea surface waters range from 35 °F (2 °C) to the east of Denmark to 46 °F (8 °C) between the Shetland Islands and Norway.

Off the East cost of England around 53 degree latitude it tends to have a Winter temperature of  4 to 6 degrees.

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31 minutes ago, Alan de Enfield said:

 

We looked at putting in 'air-con'(heating and cooling) into the Cat using sea-water for the cooling / heating. The manufacturers said it was OK(ish) in Southern UK sea water but would not generate a huge amount of heat, and, anywhere Noth of roughly latitude 53 degrees ( sort of Lincolnshire to Liverpool) it would not be at all viable with virtually no heat produced.

 

Colder, less-saline waters come from the Baltic Sea through the Skagerrak, creating a counterclockwise circulation in the basin. ... Average January temperatures of North Sea surface waters range from 35 °F (2 °C) to the east of Denmark to 46 °F (8 °C) between the Shetland Islands and Norway.

Off the East cost of England around 53 degree latitude it tends to have a Winter temperature of  4 to 6 degrees.

 

If you look into how a heat pump works, having a low temperature source for heating reduces the efficiency and output a bit but it's still pretty good, otherwise ground source heat pumps wouldn't work in places like Scandinavia in winter -- but they do.

 

The big problem for boats -- especially on the canals -- is that when used for heating the water outlet is by definition cooler than the inlet (since heat is extracted from it), and with sensible water flow rates this difference is at least a few degrees -- so if you're taking in fresh water below 4C (canal in winter) the output water could be at 0C and the cold end of the heat pump will freeze up. Ground source heat pumps get round this by using a concentrated brine solution which has a much lower freezing point. Seawater would be a bit better than fresh because it freezes around -2C, but this is only a tiny improvement.

 

This is also why a skin tank doesn't work, even a few degrees additional temperature difference between the water inside the tank and outside makes everything much worse.

Edited by IanD
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In the 1960's the factory (John E Sturge Chemicals) in Kings Norton used to discharge warm water into the canal next to the old and now defunct Tunnel Lane Swing Bridge. In my childhood I used to catch loads of fish there. No goldfish but plenty of larger than normal perch, roach etc.

 

I'm not sure if it was from the same pipe but on one occasion the whole canal turned a deep orange colour and remained that way for a few weeks. As far as I remember there was no loss of fish which presumably meant whatever was accidentally discharged was harmless, but it looked really strange.

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In the 1960's the factory (John E Sturge Chemicals) in Kings Norton used to discharge warm water into the canal next to the old and now defunct Tunnel Lane Swing Bridge. In my childhood I used to catch loads of fish there. No goldfish but plenty of larger than normal perch, roach etc.

 

The Tunnel Lane Swing Bridge was a replacement for the earlier Lift Bridge. This was where Tom Rolt had the GWR "fixed bridge" raised.

 

The Sturges and their successors used to produce a pure form of calcium carbonate.

 

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