Solar-powered holiday lights highlight Coast Guard’s new energy initiatives

SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine – The string of bright, blue holiday lights wrapped around the display anchor at Coast Guard Sector Northern New England signify a bright future for Coast Guard units here.

The solar-powered light-emitting diodes, or LEDs, are part of a new 2009 energy campaign here that is kicking off a week and a half before the new year.

The sector is testing the solar panels illuminating the lights with equipment that first lit navigation buoys. After the holidays, the same solar panels will light the small security building at the sector’s main gate.

“Ok, we admit our 100 holiday lights will not be confused with the tree at Rockefeller Center,” said Capt. Jim McPherson, sector commander. “However, we are committed to exploring all energy alternatives to power our cutters, vehicles and stations. The Coast Guard protects the environment every day so it is important to continue to find new ways to harness our natural resources and save taxpayer money, too.”

“We already use wind power at the Coast Guard base in Southwest Harbor,” said Lt. Ashly Thomas, from Sector Field Office Southwest Harbor. She said the hybrid solar/wind generator powers 20 computers, servers and monitors.

“After last week’s storm, the wind generator provided the only power to more than 20 computer terminals,” she said. She estimates the turbine saves taxpayers over $1,100 a year.

In addition, the Coast Guard in northern New England installed hundreds of solar panels on 360 buoys and 60 lighthouses in Maine and New Hampshire and used recycled engine oil to heat the boat garage at Coast Guard Station Jonesport.

Future projects in 2009 include wind turbines in Bass Harbor, Maine, Coast Guard Station Burlington, Vt., and a second turbine in Southwest Harbor.

“In New England, we’re fortunate to be located near abundant energy sources like solar, wind and the 20-foot tides,” said Lt. Jason Smilie, who is in charge of the project. He said the sector is exploring how to harness tidal power as a free energy source to help reduce the service’s carbon emissions.

If you have any problems viewing this article, please report it here.