Let there be light

In what’s claimed to be a world first, a fuel cell has been used to power a lighthouse at the mouth of the River Tees in the UK.

To develop the new system, the Wilton on Teesside-based Centre for Process Innovation (CPI) worked in collaboration with marine engineering company Pelangi International, who maintain the lighthouse and its systems, Schunk, who manufactured the fuel cell stack and hydrogen supplier Air Products.

The hydrogen fuel cell, housed in a cabinet attached to the lighthouse, has been powering the so-called South Gare light, which can be seen from 25 miles out to sea, for several months now.

The site itself is regularly lashed by high winds and rough seas but the lighthouse, built in 1884, still plays a pivotal role in the success of Teesport, which is one of the UK’s three busiest ports, handling 6,000 ships each year.

Bert Frame, managing director of Pelangi International, said that by using the original lens from the lighthouse coupled with modern light emitters lowered the power requirement enough to enable the lighthouse to be powered from the low power fuel cell.