Solar panels are becoming an increasingly popular choice for nonprofit organizations looking to reduce their carbon footprint. On Monday, Essex Heritage flipped the switch on a new solar array during a virtual event at Bakers Island Light Station.
The system is designed to run their facility on 100 percent renewable energy. Green Mountain Energy Sun Club donated $45,000 to install an off-grid solar system on the island. The system features a combination of an 1,830-watt solar array to generate the electricity and batteries to store the electricity, and will provide power to the two keepers’ houses year-round.
Bakers Island Light Station, a historic lighthouse and supporting buildings in Salem first established in 1796, is still in use today assisting sailors as they navigate past the rocks and shoals guarding the entrance to Salem, Marblehead, and Beverly harbors. The U.S. Coast Guard transferred the Bakers Island Light Station to the Essex National Heritage Commission in 2014.
The nonprofit organization restored the lighthouse and now maintains the property and provides access to the light station for the public.
“We had a minimal solar power system to run a few LED lights and a water pump, but we relied on gas generators for the rest of our energy needs,” said Annie C. Harris, chief executive officer for Essex Heritage. “With Sun Club’s support, we now have a more efficient solar power system and a new battery bank that allows us to have 110-volt lights, better electric appliances, and power tools for maintenance. Our volunteer keepers will no longer need to travel every three days to get perishables and we can now comfortably light up the property at night. Many recent visitors don’teven realize we are off the grid, although we always like to remind them and show off the new solar panel system.”
The Bakers Island Light Station is one of 120 projects to receive a sustainability grant from Sun Club, a nonprofit organization founded by Green Mountain Energy, the nation’s longest-serving renewable energy retailer.
Founded in 2002, Sun Club has now awarded $10 million in sustainability grants through nonprofit partnerships for projects promoting renewable energy, energy efficiency, resource conservation, education, clean transportation and sustainable agriculture. Sun Club is funded by Green Mountain Energy, its customers and employees.
“While many nonprofit organizations are committed to green energy, and solar is one way to meet those goals, they often lack the funding to install a solar panel system,” said Mark Parsons, vice president and general manager for Green Mountain Energy. “We are honored to collaborate with Essex Heritage to support their mission to preserve and enhance the Bakers Island Light Station. Sun Club grants are possible thanks to a one-of-a-kind model that links community engagement to Green Mountain employees and customers, allowing each to be a part of a community that supports sustainability solutions with renewable energy as the beacon of the program.”
For the health and safety of the community, Essex Heritage continues to offer limited access to Bakers Island Light Station in 2020. Essex Heritage has a stay overnight program, where groups of up to six can rent the Assistant Keeper’s House or camp overnight. Although volunteer opportunities have been reduced, community members can still sign up to volunteer on Wednesdays.
For families who are not able to visit this year, there are online resources such as the Bakers Bulletin, where they can capture a glimpse into the life of a modern-day lighthouse keeper, and other activities, including online jigsaw puzzles and short videos to travel virtually to lighthouses around the world.
For more information about Essex Heritage’s efforts to promote experiences in the Essex National Heritage Area, just 10 miles north of Boston and covering 500 square miles of eastern Massachusetts to the New Hampshire border, visit essexheritage.org.
View a video of the unveiling here: essexheritage.org/flip-switch-bakers-island-light-station.