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Paris Cooling System – NBC10 Philadelphia

The Mona Lisa can keep its famous enigmatic smile because it benefits from one of Paris’s best-kept secrets: an underground cooling system that helped the Louvre cope with the blistering heat that broke temperature records across Europe.

A little-known network of “urban cold” snakes unsuspecting beneath the feet of Parisians at depths of up to 30 meters (98 feet), pumping icy water through 89 kilometers of labyrinthine pipes used to cool the air in more than 700 locations. . The system, which uses electricity generated from renewable sources, is the largest in Europe and operates around the clock with a deafening noise completely inaudible above ground.

Paris City Hall has signed an ambitious contract to triple the size of the network by 2042 to 252 kilometers (157 miles). This will make it the largest urban cooling system in the world. The new contract is designed to help the city both adapt to and combat the threat of global warming. In many parts of Europe, temperatures reached 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) in July.

Over the next two decades, the city expanded its cooling network to hospitals, schools and subway stations. It is not yet clear how much of the system will be operational before the 2024 Paris Olympics, but it is possible that the systems will be used at several Olympic venues.

Millions of tourists do not know that the pipeline is currently cooling the most symbolic places of the City of Light, such as the Louvre and the Quai Branly museum. It may even help cool the spirits of agitated lawmakers as it is used to cool down the temperature in the National Assembly.

The scheme is run by the Fraicheur de Paris joint venture – 85% owned by state-owned French energy company EDF and the rest by public transport operator RATP. Company representatives praise its benefits for the entire French capital.

“If all (Parisian) buildings are equipped with autonomous units (such as air conditioners), this will gradually create a very significant urban ‘heat island’ effect,” said Maggie Schelfhout of Fraicheur de Paris, referring to the increase in urban heat. due to less cooling vegetation and more urban infrastructure absorbing the sun’s rays.

But Shelfhout said the network of pipes could make all of Paris one degree Celsius (1.8 Fahrenheit) cooler than if stand-alone installations were placed across the city.

“One degree less in the city center is a lot,” she added.

A man disguised as an old woman in a wheelchair threw a piece of cake into the glass that protects the Mona Lisa in a climate protest at the Louvre in Paris.

Three of the 10 high-tech coolers are located on the Seine River and are accessed by a retractable spiral staircase, barely visible from the street — somewhat reminiscent of a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles lair.

When the water in the Seine is cold enough, the machine captures it and uses it to cool the water in the system. The heat generated as a by-product is sent back to the Seine where it is absorbed. The cooled water is then pumped through the system’s pipes to 730 customers in Paris.

All of Paris’ coolers use renewable energy sources such as wind turbines and solar panels. Four new solar energy facilities that will connect to this grid are also slated for construction. French officials see this energy independence as particularly important given the threat of Russia cutting off energy supplies to Europe.

The Russian energy corporation “Gazprom” on Wednesday reduced the volume of natural gas coming through a large pipeline from Russia to Europe to 20% of the capacity. European countries are scrambling to find alternatives amid fears that Russia may completely cut off gas exports — used in industry, to generate electricity and cool homes — to try to gain political leverage over the bloc.

The benefits of using a cooling system that uses renewable energy sources to operate are already being felt by sites that use them. The world’s most visited museum, the Louvre, has been using the network since the 1990s, with officials touting its environmental, economic and art preservation benefits.

“This allows us to benefit from lower-carbon energy available all year round,” said Laurent Le Guedard, director of heritage at the Louvre. “The peculiarity of the Louvre museum is that it needs to use ice water to properly preserve works of art and control humidity.”

The Louvre does not use air conditioning, and officials say the cooling also gives them much-needed space in the sprawling but cramped former palace, which is home to 550,000 works of art.

Le Guedard said the system saves money, given the rise in energy costs associated with the conflict in Ukraine. He works, in particular, in the main room of the Pavillon Denon, where the Mona Lisa lives. Maybe that’s why drops of sweat never ran down the brow painted by Leonardo da Vinci.

“The Louvre’s energy bill in 2021 will be around 10 million euros per year. We are trying to control this bill as much as possible, despite the obvious fluctuations and rising energy costs,” Le Guedard said.

The system could save millions, softening the shock as Russia continues to roil the energy market.

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