When the public visits Wood Island Lighthouse in 2013 they will once again have the opportunity to climb the spiral steps of granite that ascend to the top of the historic sentinel.
However, when visitors reach the top and step up into the lantern they will view something new that is bound to fascinate them – a pair of state-of-the-art beacons sporting light emitting diode technology.
The U.S. Coast Guard Aids to Navigation Team South Portland recently spent the day on the island removing the VRB-25 rotating beacon from the tower’s lantern; replacing it with the next generation of lighthouse optics in the form of Vega Industries’ VLB-44/2.5 LED beacon.
If you have never seen one of these new LED beacons in a lighthouse, then you are sure to be intrigued when you have the chance to do so during a future visit to Wood Island. The beacon’s space age-like appearance could not be starker in contrast to the “traditional” (non Fresnel lenses) beacons we have grown accustomed to over the last sixty years.
Gone are all moving parts, and with it, the familiar sweep of the beam created by a beacon like the VRB-25, which rotates methodically around a glowing incandescent lamp. In fact, there are no filament lamps or electronic components such as lampchangers, wiring kits or flashers to replace.
The new VLB-44/2.5 LED beacon, also manufactured by Vega Industries of New Zealand, is completely self-contained, requires nearly no maintenance, has an amazing life span of ten years and is just as bright – if not brighter than its predecessor.
Though the VRB-25 rotating beacon, an early 1990s technology, was efficient and reliable in its own right, the ongoing advancements with light emitting diodes and the lure of greater efficiency and cost savings that this technology presents, is simply too irresistible for more traditional beacons to stand in the way of.
For over two centuries the winds of change have blown unrelentingly across the seascape of our lighthouse heritage. In the wake of each evolutionary step, change yielded new advances in light and sound technology that has enabled aging lighthouses to be carried forward into the future through the achievement of greater efficiency and economy.
Keeping pace with change is also vitally important to preserve the concept of “working” lighthouses, which is not only beneficial to mariners who still utilize these aids to navigation, but to younger generations as well, who have not witnessed the glory days of lighthouses or posses as keen of an awareness for this irreplaceable legacy within our midst.
As for Wood Island itself, not only is the light station being brought back to its vintage appearance thanks to the historic restoration efforts of ALF’s Friends of Wood Island Lighthouse, its light tower is now equipped with the latest technology in order to keep “sending out the light” for many years to come. You might say that it is Wood Island’s “time to shine” in more ways than one in 2013!
Quick facts about the new VLB-44/2.5 beacons in Wood Island Lighthouse…
- Built of stable, marine grade aluminum alloy…high strength and impact resistance
- No maintenance required…smooth exterior surface stays clean longer…does not accumulate grime and salt spray and the light never needs to be opened for maintenance
- No moving parts and no filament lamps to replace…10-year service life
- Possesses a narrow divergence or beam spread (2.5 degrees) that concentrates light in the unit’s horizontal plane
- The VLB-44 lantern provides up to 15nm nominal range at 14,100 candela (color white, 8-tier, 2.5 degree lantern) and 11,900 candela (color green, 8-tier, 2.5 degree lantern)
- The VLB-44 is available with up to 8 tiers of LEDs to increase intensity. This lantern requires an external 12 VDC power source from a DC power supply or a legacy solar power system consisting of solar panels and rechargeable lead-acid batteries. The eight tier beacon requires a maximum current consumption of 10 amps.
- The number of tiers, from 1 to 8, and the vertical divergence determines range and intensity capability of the beacon.
- An infrared remote control or RCA TV remote (with proper codes) programs the beacon’s proper flash rhythm and intensity
Did you know that the effective intensity of any light signal in a lantern room is reduced by 12% when it passes through clear glass or acrylic?