Assateague Island Goes Solar At Newest Facilities

ASSATEAGUE — Assateague Island National Seashore officials are putting their environmental money where their mouth is with the installation of eco-friendly solar lighting systems in many of the barrier island’s new visitor-friendly areas.

Assateague National Seashore Superintendent Trish Kicklighter this week announced the installation of several new solar-powered lighting systems in visitor service areas in the federal park. The new lighting is part of an ongoing effort by the National Park Service to reduce the Assateague Island National Seashore’s carbon footprint and demonstrate the utility of alternative energy sources.

The most visible of these new improvements is in the parking lot of the new Assateague Island Visitor Center where five solar-powered overhead lights illuminate the parking lot. The highly efficient LED lights are powered by batteries, which, in turn, are recharged by solar panels. According to Kicklighter, the parking lots can be adjusted at various times of the night and at various times of the year to improve efficiency and cut down on light pollution at the facilities.

“The lights can operate at varying intensities,” she said “A feature allows us to adjust the level of lighting to the actual need rather than maintaining a constant brightness all night long.”

In another recent improvement, all of the Assateague National Seashore’s campground and picnic area restrooms have been fitted with solar powered lights to provide interior illumination. The solar-powered lights allowed park officials to illuminate the restrooms without having to run electric lines to each and every one.

“Running electrical lines to each of the restrooms just wasn’t realistic,” she said. “So, the use of photovoltaic lights was a perfect solution.”

All of the new lighting systems have been designed to prevent light pollution and help protect Assateague’s naturally dark night skies.

“We’re fortunate that much of the seashore is well removed from major sources of unnatural night lighting,” said Kicklighter.  “As a result, there’s no better place to enjoy stargazing.”

In addition to the new lighting, the Assateague National Seashore will soon expand the use of alternative energy with the installation of two solar panel arrays in the North Beach Day Use Area parking lot.  The panels will generate more than 22 kilowatts of electricity for the planned Beach Hut convenience store, the new campground office and ranger station, which will open in September.