Electrical power at Cape Neddick "Nubble" Light is expected to be restored in time for both the July 28 Lighting of the Nubble and to save the historic Fresnel lens.
The U.S. Coast Guard will keep using the century-old lens if the town hooks up electricity, according to Matthew Stuck, chief of Aids to Navigation in Boston, Mass.
"If it turns out power is fully restored, we'd be in a good position to operate the primary optic," he said. "I'm quite certain Aids to Navigation is likely to go out and energize that light (Fresnel lens)."
The Coast Guard will continue to pay the monthly electric bill on the island, he said.
The lack of electricity was the primary driver for the Coast Guard's plan to replace the Fresnel lens with a light-emitting diode (LED) powered by solar panels, he said.
However, the option to go solar is not off the table forever, Stuck said. The Fresnel lens, built in 1891, was not meant to operate for more than 100 years, he said. He also cautioned, "We're going to need to engage with the town with backup plans if it (a power outage) happens again."
York is responsible for utilities on the island. After a storm in March knocked down a wire from the Sohier Park mainland to the Nubble, power was lost. The Coast Guard rigged a temporary solar-powered red light to the outside of the lighthouse and said it was considering solar as a permanent replacement to the Fresnel lens surrounded by a red filter. The solar panels would be on the ground and out of sight to the spectators on the Sohier Park mainland, he said.
According to Stuck, solar would not generate enough power to operate the Fresnel lens and fog detector. The latter would become mariner-activated, he said.
York Parks and Recreation Director Mike Sullivan, the town's Sohier Park Committee and the State Historic Preservation Office wanted the Fresnel lens to remain. Sullivan said the smaller LED would change the look of the light, which is viewed by thousands each year as among the most photographed lighthouses in the country.
After Sullivan received Board of Selectmen approval for the estimated $6,000 cost, Evergreen Electric of Casco this week began hanging electrical lines on new utility pole cross arms. This "quick fix" is in answer to an original $33,000 estimate from another company to replace utility poles and wires.
Power to the island is expected to be restored as early as next week, according to Sullivan. When that happens, he will contact the Coast Guard, he said.
This is the final phase of a three-phase project to relight State Street, though Mayor Joe Sinnott said city officials determined this last phase was needed because 78 new LED lights -- while sufficient for lighting the sidewalks -- didn't do enough to illuminate the street.
"We've been having discussions about these additions for a while. It was always a potential to do it, but we were not sure we were going to need it," he said.
Sinnott said the 72-watt LED lights, bought with part of a $1 million federal Energy Efficiency and Conservation block grant, don't throw enough light on the street. Some people complained that the street seemed darker because those lights, attached to lantern-style fixtures, focus downward instead of being diffused.
City Engineer Jon Tushak has said those LED lights are whiter, brighter and more concentrated, allowing pedestrians to see more clearly. Installed about two years ago, they also are designed to cut energy use and save utility costs.
Still, when some of them failed to work, manufacturer Architectural Area Lighting fixed the problem and extended the warranty from three to five years. More information about the program is available on the web site at solaronlamp