With an operating capacity of 244,000 tons per year, Century Aluminum's primary aluminum smelting plant in Hawesville, Ky., has been in operation since 1969. The original 400-ft 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 Dialight Vigilant Series L-864 LED red beacon system in an effort to achieve savings in energy consumption and cost, as well as dramatically cut maintenance expenses.

The 42-yr-old chimney stack had become a drain on the company's energy and financial resources. With two sets of four 1,400W incandescent beacons and two sets of four 116W sidelights (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, Notices to Airmen (NOTAM) filings and FAA fines could easily push the cost liability into the tens of thousands of dollars.

At the recommendation of Jason Jennett, obstruction lighting engineer with Fuellgraf Chimney & Tower, a leading tower and stack lighting specialist, Century chose Dialight's low-profile Vigilant Series LED beacon system to upgrade its tower lighting. "We calculated an ROI for them that showed these units would pay for themselves in less than 1 yr and even an ROI of just over 4 yr based on a complete new lighting system, including new conduit, cabling, and all necessary installation," he says.

Fuellgraf installed a complete new system, consisting of four red L-864 20W LED beacons on both the top and mid-levels and four steady-burning L-810 red RTO 6.5W 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 lb — one-fourth the size of the incandescent — and have 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. The lower profile design reduces wind load on the units and the tower as well.

The new beacons reduce operating expenses because they consume less than 10% of the power required for the incandescent-based units, providing a direct positive impact on the company's bottom line. In addition to the energy savings, the company is getting a green advantage as well, notes Jennett, adding that Century is now realizing a CO2 emission reduction of 38 metric tons annually — or the equivalent of removing seven cars off of the road per year.