A question and answer session with Anne-Caroline Hébrard, EuroSWAC Project Manager.
Tell us about your project.
The EuroSWAC project aimed to adapt Sea Water Air Conditioning (SWAC) technology currently used in tropical regions, where the temperature difference between the air and seawater is significant, to the shallow water and temperate climate of the Channel Area.
We wanted to use this sustainable technology to help cool and heat buildings across the Channel Area.
Specifically, the project’s aim was to find ways to foster SWAC technology in our area by:
The project started in the midst of the Covid pandemic – what adjustments did it need to make?
Due to the pandemic, some partners decided to withdraw from EuroSWAC , leading to a complete restructure of the project: a redefinition of technical activities, budget and planning modification, lead partner change, and involvement of new partners. This took a few months and the new team of 11 partners (instead of 9 previously) had to learn how to work efficiently together which took some time to set up. Travel restrictions were still in place at that time, and this delayed some activities as online solutions could not entirely answer our needs.
What have been the key outputs and results for EuroSWAC?
We were able to identify a real potential for this technology within our regions, combining heating and cooling for year-round usage. Our research and tests in real conditions also confirmed the benefits of using seawater as a renewable energy source for thermal control and to decrease its carbon footprint, even in a temperate climate.
The multiple site studies showed that a SWAC installation needs to be tailored depending on the size and thermal needs of the client and the EuroSWAC project delivered prospective designs depending on the site category.
Some partners innovation test results are impressive and promising. For example, one such partner identified that self-burying pipes and flexible pipes to abstract seawater would significantly decrease the installation costs, creating a more reachable tipping point for potential users to choose this system instead of conventional air-conditioning units.
The types of businesses we identified where SWAC would provide an efficient solution were datacentres, hotels and tourism buildings, aquaria, harbour buildings, hospitals and big industrial sites with constant cooling needs.
What lessons have you learned through this project?
Working in a 11-partner team, from different countries and backgrounds, brings some inertia to each step of the project, requiring the lead partner to be very involved, to keep a smooth and constant communication within the project team and to put strong project management tools in place.
If these conditions are met and the partners are motivated by the project, then it works, no matter the unforeseen obstacles and reduced timeline. And to build good relationships within the partnership, online meetings will never be as efficient as in-person ones.
We also learnt that such a project requires an important administrative monitoring which industrial partners are not typically used to.
What have been the highlights of delivering a cross-border project?
Firstly, diversity brings creativity which is essential to innovation (our specific objective). Then it was interesting to see the difference between both countries in terms of environmental regulations, permitting processes, the local authorities' involvement…
But beyond the differences, we also observed the same will in accelerating the decrease of energy consumption and engaging in a more sustainable way of living. This shared motivation is a powerful asset to reach ambitious objectives.
What do you hope is the legacy of the project?
We really hope that our work will lead to a significant replication of SWAC technology within the Channel area and beyond; that this deployment will reach the projected number of skilled-jobs created which on average is 110 jobs per installation plus carbon footprint savings of between 30 and 40% in England and up to 30% in France ; that the technical innovations will continue their development process and lead to industry up take and to commercialisation; that our pioneering approach on circular economy principles applied to such equipment will inspire other research.
And we also like to think that, based on this fruitful project, the partners involved in EuroSWAC will be keen to work together again if the opportunity arises.
The recently completed EuroSWAC project commenced in June 2020 and had a budget of €3.46M (€2.25M ERDF).