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London Eye looks to greener future

Louise Bateman
20th May 2009
One of the UK’s biggest attractions, the London Eye, is getting a £12.5 million upgrade that will make it run more efficiently and cut down on its carbon emissions.
Work to remove and upgrade all 32 capsules of the world’s largest cantilevered observation wheel will begin this summer to be completed in time for the 2012 Olympics. Among the environmental benefits of the new investment will be a 20 per cent reduction in the electricity consumption of the capsules and a new heating, ventilation and air conditioning system (HVAC) that will reduce gas capacity by 20 per cent.

Merlin Entertainments Group, owners of the London Eye, said the investment – the biggest since the attraction opened in 2000 – would “future proof” the structure on London’s Southbank for the next 15 to 20 years.

“This will ensure the London Eye operates at maximum efficiency and is cutting down its carbon footprint well into the future,” said David Sharpe, divisional director of London Midway attractions at Merlin Entertainments Group.

According to Merlin, the new London Eye HVAC system will reduce gas capacity by 20 per cent by utilising chilled water systems as apposed to total refrigerated systems, while electricity consumption in the capsules will be cut by using free cooling and ventilation of ambient outside air.

“Ambient air will provide the cooled, heated or dehumidified environment within the capsule. In addition, rather than using refrigerant gases to cool the air in the capsules, we will be using glycol, which is an anti-freeze solution that replaces a large amount of refrigerant gas used in the system to provide the cooling required,” said a spokesperson. “Refrigeration gas usage, through controlled replacement due to reduction in performance, will be down 160 kg per annum.”

Planning for the upgrade began in 2005, following the removal and analysis of a capsule to examine the effects of five years of business and explore what could be done to improve both the experience for visitors and the longevity and the carbon footprint of the London Eye.  

When work begins, one capsule will be removed at a time and will travel down the Thames to Silvertown in London’s Docklands, where it will be loaded onto a truck and transported to a workshop in Worcester to be upgraded before returning to the Southbank. Merlin was unable to say by how, if at all, this method of transportation will reduce the carbon footprint of the refurb.

However, the London Eye is a signatory of the Mayor of London’s Green500 initiative for businesses and in 2007 reviewed its lighting on the pier and the rim of the wheel the result of which was the introduction of LED lighting that has reduce energy consumption in this area by 69 per cent. Another environmental measure introduced by the attraction has been the use of only biodegradable oils and cleaning products on the wheel.

“To put the London Eye’s energy consumption into perspective, it has been calculated that the carbon footprint per guest who enjoys a flight on the London Eye is the equivalent to taking a bus from Waterloo station to London’s Oxford Street,” said London Eye's spokesperson.

The London Eye is the UK’s number one paid-for visitor attraction and has so far welcomed over 33 million visitors.

London Eye looks to greener future
London Eye's £12.5 million refurb will cut attractions electricity usage by 20 per cent
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