During America’s second war for independence, the War of 1812-1814 against the British once again, Francis Scott Key was inspired to see the American flag still waving through smoke-filled skies of relentless cannon fire during the Battle of Baltimore. He immediately wrote the lyrics for “The Star-Spangled Banner,” which subsequently became America’s national anthem.
In more recent decades, the 30-ft high, 42-ft long replica of The Star-Spangled Banner on an 87-ft metal pole, has been illuminated by 700-watt high-energy consuming, high maintenance incandescent lights. These were powered by conventional line-voltage electricity, which the National Park Service paid for every month. (What would Francis Scott Key think?)
Park Service facilities management for Ft. McHenry knew of dramatic developments during the past decade or so both with high-brightness illumination quality LEDs, as well as with compact storage batteries connected to solar panels and, in turn, to LED floodlights.
Beacon Products, a Hubbell Lighting brand, manufactures LED floodlights that are compact and allow positioning. Coincidentally, the Solar Electric Power Company (SEPCO) lies in nearby Stuart, Florida and manufactures of advanced solar-power systems. Its systems can store more electricity than a given lighting-system needs, so excess power can be sold to local electric-utility companies for standard line-voltage users, commercial or residential.
SEPCO can also automatically turn on LED floodlights to illuminate the Star-Spangled Banner at dusk, with power collected all day from the sun’s rays. Likewise, it turn off lights at dawn to start the collection process, and its conversion to grid-free, non-line-voltage electricity, all over again.
The National Park Service, however, had several “special” requirements on which Beacon Products and SEPCO had to collaborate, which were somewhat different from other solar-powered outdoor lighting systems.
Most solar-powered lighting arrays mount directly to poles and are angled to face the sun. The National Park Service wanted no lighting units or solar panels on the Star-Spangled Banner flagpole itself. Further, they wanted the SEPCO-supplied solar panels, solar-powered electric storage batteries, and Beacon Products LED lighting units, to all be away from the flagpole. Instead of being angled, the Park Service wanted solar panels to be mounted flat, directly parallel to the ground. They also wanted solar panels and lights partially concealed, so as not to interfere in any way with viewing by visitors year-round of the Star-Spangled Banner or of fort buildings themselves; nor in any way that would create unwanted sky-glow, glare in viewers’ eyes, or wasteful light trespass.
SEPCO’s solution was to mount its high-wattage solar collecting panels on horizontal guide rails, with the entire system partially and conveniently concealed on flat roofs of two nearby buildings integral with the fort. Recyclable 12-volt gel storage batteries are electrically connected to the SEPCO solar panels — yet are also concealed inside low-profile, locked metal cabinets.
Solar panels continuously collect sunlight during daylight hours. At night, solar panels automatically detect dusk, by a drop in voltage from the sun’s rays. They turn on lights until they later detect dawn conditions. Gel batteries automatically convert stored power to self-contained electricity directly, not requiring any utility line power or generator, allowing The Star-Spangled Banner to be illuminated all night, at no cost, without use of standard line-power, carbon-generating electricity.
On each building’s roofs are two Beacon Products 360° FL-1 LED outdoor floodlights that can be aimed appropriately. As with SEPCO panels, the four luminaires are made in America; at Beacon Products’ own modern plant. These compact, cylinder-shape units with rated 50,000-hour lifespans consume a mere 118 (total) watts of white, high color- rendition light, employing LEDs made for Beacon.
The Beacon Products lights make solar an obtainable cost-and-energy-efficient option for high levels of uniform lighting, at greatly reduced power consumption and significantly lowered maintenance costs. They illuminate without glare The Star-Spangled Banner and its imposing pole, in a way that continuously renews itself night after night, year after year, with negligible required maintenance. U.S. citizens, viewers from all over the world and, a fort first built literally in 1776, are all beneficiaries from the combined Beacon Products/SEPCO solar-powered lighting system, as is our mutual environment.