Recap: Monhegan LED Information Session

This Wednesday (5/6/15), the Island Institute and the Monhegan Plantation Power District (MPPD) held an informational session on LED lighting at the Monhegan School.  We were joined by Mike Kurt, of Gilman Electrical Supply, and Walter Cary, of OSRAM Sylvania.

That's Walter (Sylvania) on the left, and Mike (Gilman) on the right.
That’s Walter (Sylvania) on the left, and Mike (Gilman) on the right.

We met Mike and Walter when they got off the boat at 11:30, and headed up to the Trailing Yew for lunch, after making a quick stop to look in at the lighting setup in the Island Inn.  We talked about the outlook for Efficiency Maine business incentives over lunch, and then headed over to the Monhegan Museum to look at some of the plans museum curator Jenn Pye had for updating her lighting system.

The next stop was the Monhegan School, where the kids and I were having a pizza party to celebrate a project we did to monitor their energy use.  They saved $87.50 on the school’s power bill over just a month, using conservation techniques like shutting off lights they didn’t need, unplugging the refrigerator over vacation, and turning down the heater at night.

Once school let out, we had to scramble to set up the LED information session.   Marian Chioffi, the owner/operator of the Trailing Yew and MPPD’s bookkeeper, kicked things off with a quick overview of a project she has been working on, to create a comprehensive energy plan for Monhegan.  The purpose of this plan is to create a vision for what the future of energy on Monhegan will look like, and use that vision as a way to focus people’s efforts on the island around energy towards a common goal.

After Marian spoke, I talked a bit about some of the work being done by the Monhegan Community Energy Action Team to teach the students in the school about the importance of energy conservation.  Timothy and Georgia (both students at the school) talked about how they monitored their energy use and adopted specific conservation techniques to save the school money on its power bill, and how they measured the light levels in the school to make sure that they had the right number of lights on.

Jes Stevens, a schoolboard member, talked about some of the weatherization work that has been done at the school.   She also talked about an upcoming LED retrofit in the school to replace the overhead fluorescent lights.  This, combined with the conservation techniques that the kids learned will help significantly lower the school’s power bill.

The next person to speak was Chris Smith, the grid operator on Monhegan.  He talked about a trip he took last year to Naushon Island, south of Cape Cod.  Like Monhegan, Naushon has primarily relied on diesel fuel to generate its power.  However, a few years ago, the Forbes family, which owns the island, began to take aggressive measures to reduce their diesel consumption.  Chris talked about how they started off by replacing all of the light bulbs on the island with more efficient CFLs.  The next year, they replaced the refrigerators on the island, and swapped them out with energy efficient models.  The next few years after that, they made significant upgrades to their electricity grid, and then, finally, they installed a PV system.

Chris Smith of MPPD explains how Naushon accomplished a 75% reduction in diesel fuel use.
Chris Smith of MPPD explains how Naushon accomplished a 75% reduction in diesel fuel use.

While all this work was going on, they were tracking power production at the plant, so they could see, each year, how much their power consumption dropped, and, importantly, how much their diesel consumption dropped.  We had a graph of these numbers, which showed that, after all was said and done, their diesel consumption dropped by about 75%. Chris was eager to replecate that work on Monhegan.

That’s where I came in.  See, Naushon is a privately owned island.  It was very easy for them to do some of the initial efficiency work, because they could just go into each house, change out the bulbs, swap out the refrigerators, and no one could tell them otherwise.  Monhegan, however, is a community of individual property owners and renters, who would not be very appreciative of someone coming in and changing out their lightbulbs, or telling them they had to get rid of their refrigerator.

So I explained how my project on Monhegan basically consists of three steps:

Step 1: Inventory as many houses on the island as possible to see what kinds of appliances they have, how old those appliances are, what kinds of lights they have, and other efficiency-related data.

Step 2: Take this data, and see what the most pressing needs in the community for energy efficiency improvements are.  This information is then presented to retailers to negotiate a bulk purchase deal, and to funders at the Island Institute who might want to fund efficiency work on Monhegan or Matinicus. This bulk discount and the funds raised are used to run a bulk purchase program, to make energy efficiency improvements as simple and cost effective as possible.

Step 3: Step 2 is repeated until Monhegan’s load is brought down to a degree sufficient to size a renewable installation.

Now that I have performed inventories in over 100 buildings on the island, we have decided to kick off an LED bulk buy.  The folks over at Gilman electric agreed to mark down the price of a wide array of LED bulbs, including A-line omnidirectional bulbs, reflectors, flood lights, and candelabra bulbs. The Island Institute has additionally marked down the price of 11 Watt A-Line bulb, from $2.50 per bulb, to $1.00 per bulb. I showed how replacing one 60 Watt incandescent bulb with an LED could save a homeowner $30.00 a year in electricty costs.  Doug Boynton asked if the savings from a CFL were comprable over the same time period.  I explained that they were, however over a longer period, the savings were less significant with CFLs, and they did not last as long.  There’s also environemntal concerns about disposing CFLs, which contain small amounts of mercury.

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11 Watt A19 Bulb from Sylvania

The sign up for this bulk buy ends on May 20, so it’s important to get order forms in ASAP.  Copies are available at the Post Office, or you can email me at  I will be out on Monhegan for the rest of May, and will bring the bulbs out to distribute during the last week of May and the first week of June. I can also come to your house and install the bulbs for you.  If you would like me to do that, please indicate on the order form for me to contact you.

After I described how the bulk purchase program would work, Mike and Walter fielded questions about the specific types of bulbs.  There were a lot of questions about whether or not the color of the light cast would be different. Walter and Mike explained how technology has improved the coloringof LED lights over recent years, so that they now imitate the warm color of incandescent bulbs.  They also showed a 60 Watt replacement LED plugged in next to comprable halogens on the stage at the school, to show what the light would look like.

Overall, the meeting went really well.  I’m looking forward to seeing how many bulbs we can swap out in May!


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