Century Aluminum Cuts Maintenance and Energy Costs with LED Obstruction Lights

Beacon light

Two sets of four red Dialight L-864 20 W LED beacons replaced 1,400 W incandescents at the top and mid levels of the chimney.

With an operating capacity of 244,000 tonnes per year, Century Aluminum’s Hawesville, Kentucky primary aluminum smelter has been in operation since 1969. The original 400-foot chimney stack featured an incandescent beacon lighting system installed in the 1970s. Looking to upgrade its antiquated technology, the company replaced its vintage beacons with a new, high-efficiency LED system to save energy consumption and reduce maintenance expenses.

Century’s 400-ft. tall stack is marked with two sets of four red beacon lights a

Century’s 400-ft. tall stack is marked with two sets of four red beacon lights and two sets of four red side marker lights.

The 42-year-old system included two sets of four 1,400 W incandescent beacons and two sets of four 116 W sidelights. With the total of 16 units operating night and day, the company was spending about $6,000 annually just to keep the lights on. In addition to the operational costs, maintenance was becoming a burden, requiring a minimum of two bulb replacements per year for each of the dozen beacons to safeguard against failure.

With the cost to mobilize a tower-climb team at about $1,800 for each outing, plus at least $80 for each bulb, maintenance costs racked up to nearly $4,000 a year. In the event of a bulb failure, NOTEM filings and FAA fines could easily push the cost liability into the tens of thousands of dollars.

LEDs deliver fast ROI

At the recommendation of Jason Jennett, obstruction lighting engineer with Fuellgraf Chimney & Tower, Century chose an ultra-high-efficiency, low-maintenance and low-profile Vigilant Series LED beacon system from Dialight to upgrade the lighting.

“We calculated an ROI for them that showed these units would pay for themselves in less than 1 year,” says Jennett, “and an ROI of just over four years based on a complete new lighting system including new conduit, cabling and all necessary installation."

Two sets of four steady-burning Dialight L-810 red RTO 6.5 W LED marker lights r

Two sets of four steady-burning Dialight L-810 red RTO 6.5 W LED marker lights replaced 116 W incandescents between the top and mid-levels and at the lowest level of the chimney lighting system.

 Fuellgraf installed a complete new system consisting of four red Dialight L-864 20 W LED beacons on both the top and mid-levels, and four steady-burning L-810 red RTO 6.5 W LED marker lights between the top and mid-levels and on the bottom. New conduit, cable supports and junction boxes completed the upgrade. The fact that the new units weigh just 20 pounds — one-fourth the weight of the incandescents — and the ability to jump straight into the terminal block off the LED beacon without the added terminal block required for traditional beacons, made for easier installation. And, the lower-profile design reduces wind loads.

Direct Bottom-Line Savings

The new beacons reduce operating expenses because they consume less than 10% of the power required for the incandescent units, providing a direct positive impact on the company’s bottom line.

“Dialight’s proven products offer the lowest wattage on the market, giving my customers more bang for their buck, plus you get the ‘green’ advantage of reduced consumption all in one package,” Jennett said. “Century is now realizing a CO2 emission reduction of 38 metric tones annually, or the equivalent of removing 7 cars off of the road.”

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