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Lighthouse Project

Lighthouse Project

It’s hard to imagine an application better suited to the strengths of LED than an isolated lighthouse. Being high powered, low voltage and long-lived, LEDs answer all the problems of keeping a bright light shining in the middle of nowhere.

Safety first

They are certainly safer than the flame-based lights of the eighteenth century. In 1755 Henry Hall, the lighthouse keeper at the wooden Eddystone Rocks lighthouse, suffered an epic demise at the ripe old age of 94. The roof of the structure was pitch-coated wood and lead and, you guessed it, caught fire. Along with a couple of other keepers he was attempting to put the inferno out when some of the now molten lead dropped on to his upturned face. Bad enough, but he had his mouth open at the time and managed to swallow a whole lot. He is said to have screamed “My God, I’m on fire inside!”. It seems he didn’t get to be so old without being pretty tough, because he kept fighting the fire with the others until they had to abandon the place and take shelter in a cave. It took five days before a passing ship spotted them. The ship couldn’t land, so the men were dragged to safety through the surf tied to a rope. Incredibly Henry survived that as well and lingered for another 7 days until he finally died. He had 200 grams of lead in his stomach.

Perfect solution

The days of lighthouse keepers are long gone. Regularly visiting lighthouses to keep diesel generators fuelled and serviced is expensive and time consuming. The efficiency of LEDs lends itself to solar power and their longevity makes them the perfect solution for locations that are hard to get to.

LEDs conquer

Not surprisingly, LEDs have steadily conquered this niche, with many smaller lighthouses already converted. The last bastion are large lights with effective ranges of more than 30 kilometres. The Japanese Coast Guard are experimenting with the high output beacon of the Kushiro Saki Lighthouse, replacing the high-powered halogen with high intensity chip-on-board LEDs. So far the results are encouraging with the section chief of Japan Coast Guard’s research centre, Kaoru Shinano saying that there have been no problems. At least they won’t set fire to the roof.

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