Thoughts of Boston Light, the oldest light station in North America, usually conjure visions of its illustrious past. But a new development concerning the lighthouse on Little Brewster Island in Boston’s outer harbor has people thinking more in terms of the future. Boston Light today is one of a small number of American lighthouses receiving the bulk of its electricity from wind power.
A mile or so to the south of Little Brewster is the town of Hull, located on a narrow peninsula on Boston’s South Shore. There’s a corner of the town of 11,000 residents that’s long been known as Windmill Point after a succession of structures that have stood there. Today at this point stands a tall, sleek structure that dwarfs the 89-foot lighthouse offshore.
This enormous wind turbine, with three 90-foot blades atop a 150-foot shaft, provides power for Hull’s streetlights and traffic lights as well as for about 250 homes. Dubbed Hull Wind I, it’s considered the only state-of-the-art wind turbine operating east of the Catskills. The turbine, which has been in use since late 2001, has helped bring about major reductions in the town’s electric bills.
And the turbine also provides most of the power for America’s first lighthouse station. “We’re very proud that the oldest continuously staffed lighthouse on this continent, which is Boston Light — it’s saved many a life I’m sure in its lifetime — is powered by our windmill,” says Malcolm Brown of Citizens for Alternative Renewable Energy (CARE), board member of the Town of Hull Municipal Light Plant and a force behind the turbine.
Wind power is gaining popularity and there’s no doubt that more and more lighthouses will soon get their electricity in similar fashion. A few, like Rose Island in Newport, Rhode Island, have their very own dedicated wind turbines. Of course, many lighthouses have been solar powered for years.
Except for a few dissenters, the people of Hull love the turbine and plans are in the works to build another one. Brown and others are also discussing the possibility of a wind-powered desalinization plant. For Boston Light, this represents the latest step in an evolution of power sources from candles, whale oil, and kerosene to electricity produced by fossil fuels and now all the way back to the elemental power of the air.
For more information go to the Hull Wind web site: www.hullwind.org
This story appeared in the
October 2003 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.
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