Seeing Aids-to-Navigation in a New Light



Carmanah Technologies Corp., Victoria, BC, Canada


The Suez Canal stretches more than 163 kilometres through the Egyptian countryside, accommodating about eight per cent of the world’s shipping traffic. Equally impressive is Australia’s Sydney Harbour, an international landmark and tourist destination as well as a busy working port. What do these two high profile maritime icons have in common?

They are similar in their lighting choice for their aids-to-navigation: solar-powered LED marine lighting. In fact, the world’s leading maritime authorities, including the UK’s Trinity House Lighthouse service, the United States Coast Guard and the Canadian Coast Guard are equally attracted to this advanced aids-to-navigation lighting technology. Solar-powered LED marine lanterns guide thousands of vessels and millions of tonnes of shipping cargo safely through channels, ports and
harbours in countless waterways throughout the world.

LEDs – changing the way we light our waterways

Imagine an LED as a tiny light bulb, but without a filament. LEDs are dissimilar in many ways to the common light bulb. Unlike incandescent bulbs, LEDs utilise 90 per cent less energy and are unaffected by shock and vibration. With an operating life of 25 years or more, LEDs are powerful and long-lasting, virtually eliminating maintenance pertaining to changing bulbs and ballasts.

LEDs convert electric energy directly into light via the movement of electrons in a semiconductor material. LEDs use ‘cold’ light generation technology, producing light in a visible spectrum and therefore producing negligible amounts of heat. This eliminates wasted energy in the form of heat and makes LEDs a more efficient lighting technology. Incandescent bulbs, on the other hand, produce great amounts of heat as they produce light in the non-visible or infrared portion of the spectrum and
are significantly less efficient than LED counterparts.

LEDs are an incredibly efficient light source, and with advancements in LED colour and brightness consistency, LEDs are now used in the creation of progressive innovations that were previously unattainable. One of these innovations is the LED marine lantern.

The synergy of LEDs and solar power

Self-contained solar-powered lanterns are the result of a natural synergy between highly efficient LED lights, state-of-the-art solar panels and superior battery  technology. The result is a marine lighting solution that offers harbours and ports a cost-effective and reliable way to light their aids-to-navigation. The most innovative feature of self-contained LED lights is their low voltage which allows them to operate autonomously for long periods of time with relatively small battery capacity.

This specialisation enables the use of a compact solar-powered charging system that can be fully integrated into the unit’s design. By eliminating the need for external cabling or connectors, self-contained solar-powered LED lights can also be completely sealed.

Many of these units are developed free of gaskets and grommets allowing them to remain impenetrable to salt water and UV ray damage. In addition, installation on buoys and other navigational aids is completed within an hour, and the lights can be programmed to meet user requirements. Solar-powered LED lights exceed reliability criteria, and once installed maintenance requirements reduce to zero.

These unitised systems are extremely durable and perform reliably anywhere in the world: they withstand extreme swings in ambient temperature, shock, heavy vibration and UV degradation. It is not uncommon to hear of such lanterns being submerged in water for lengthy periods of time only to resurface still working.

Solar-powered LED lighting applications

With emerging smart technologies, the range of marine and land use applications for compact, solar-powered LED lighting is experiencing unprecedented growth. Previously, areas where illumination was deemed unfeasible were left without light.

With innovations in solar-powered LED technology, it is now impossible to imagine any place in the world without light. As can be expected, these unique lanterns are finding uses in more than just the marine environment.  The self-contained and maintenance free nature of this technology lends itself immediately to land-based applications. A natural market extension for solar-powered LED lighting can be found in variety of other products, such as solar-powered flood lighting for docks and harbours, solar-powered security cameras for port security and solar-powered engines that provide clean, reliable and free energy to power all manner of equipment. 

These systems install quickly, without any trenching, cabling or site remediation and operate independently of the power grid. Solar-powered lighting and solar   powered systems pay for themselves within the first two years of operation based solely on the reduction or elimination of ongoing electricity costs.

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