Solar system for iconic lighthouse

The Northern Lighthouse Board (NLB) has issued a notice to Mariners this week advising that on or around 30 October 2013 there will be an alteration to the major light at Turnberry Point.

A new “minor” light will be shown from the balcony of the lighthouse, which will have the same character of flashing white every 15 seconds but will operate at a reduced range of 12 nautical miles, instead of the current 24 nautical miles.

The new light, classed as a minor light, having a range less than 15 nautical miles (a major light has a range greater than 15 nautical miles) will be a self contained solar powered light with an LED lantern, which will flash rather than rotate and will be seen as a whiter light.

The new system will consume less energy and require less maintenance, which will make a significant saving.

The light will be monitored from the Northern Lighthouse Board’s headquarters in Edinburgh. The existing light system, which provides the major light, is a modern rotating lamp array installed in the 1980s, this will be removed and the gearless pedestal refurbished and kept for future use.

Roger Lockwood, Chief Executive Northern Lighthouse Board said: “The lighthouse, with worldwide recognition for its view of the golf course, is an iconic building and will remain so; it is only the type and range of light that will change. The Northern Lighthouse Board will therefore continue to operate from the lighthouse at Turnberry.” 

Various factors led to the decision to make the alterations to the light at Turnberry. The Northern Lighthouse Board along with the other General Lighthouse Authorities for the United Kingdom and Ireland carry out a five yearly review and consultation of the Aid to Navigation requirements for our waters. 

Each lighthouse, buoy and beacon provided by the Board is studied in isolation, as well as in relation to other aids in its vicinity, to establish if it is still required or if additional/improved provision is required.

This process involves utilising Geographic Information System (GIS) overlays along with Automatic Identification Systems (AIS) shipping patterns and other factors to allow a view on aid to navigation requirements to be formed. The most recent review was carried out in 2010.  During this process it was considered that a review of the longer term future of the lights at Turnberry Point and Ailsa Craig should be carried out. 

Vessel Traffic Analysis (based on AIS) suggested the majority of commercial shipping passed west of Ailsa Craig and passed NNE/SSW past Holy Island utilising Holy Island Outer and Pladda lighthouses and little benefit was derived from Turnberry lighthouse.