Campaigners fight to stop lighthouse changing to LED

A lighthouse on a rocky island
Activists are battling to prevent the managers of Saint John’s Point lighthouse off the coast of Ireland from changing its HID lamp for an LED one. Credit: Paul McErlean

CAMPAIGNERS are battling to prevent a lighthouse off the coast of Ireland from changing its HID lamp for an LED one.

The activists, who have previously used roadblocks to stop Commissioners of Irish Lights from changing the light bulb at the Saint John’s Point lighthouse, say the new light won’t have the character of the current one. 

Specifically, they say the LED lamp won’t have the ‘loom’ – the romantic glow of light spill in sea water vapour – that the HID has.

’It doesn’t represent progress,’ campaigner Eileen Peters told The Guardian this week.

‘The most important objection is the reduction in the quantity and character of the beam. It’s part of our heritage, the quality of our beautiful light. It just shows what philistines they are.’

The Commissioners say the 30W LED lamp represents a major energy reduction compared to the 1kW traditional high-intensity discharge source it is replacing. 

Additionally, it plans to remove to remove the liquid mercury bath on which the lighting mechanism rotates, which the Commissioners say is a health hazard. 

A added benefit is that the back-up diesel generators at the lighthouse, which is off the coast of County Down, can be replaced with batteries instead.

There would even be a ‘loom’, said director of coastal operations Robert McCabe.

‘In reality it’s very little change. The light picking up moisture in the atmosphere, like searchlights in war movies – none of that will change.’

The LED would reduce the beam from 25 miles to 18 and give a slight blue-white tinge to the light.

However, the protestors are not convinced and vow to continue the fight to preserve the HID lamp. 

The lighthouse at St John’s Point – immortalised by Van Morrison in his 1990 hit Coney Island –   began operation in 1844.

The main light – which stands at 36.5 metres above high water – was converted from paraffin vapour to electric in 1981.