Los Farallones

Dispatches from Point Blue’s field station on the Farallon Islands National Wildlife Refuge

Powered by the Sun

The Southeast Farallon Island research station is powered primarily by the sun’s energy. Eleven years ago, a solar array was installed on the roof of the powerhouse and a battery bank inside supplies the houses and workshops with electricity. Those solar panels and batteries served us very well for the past decade. This solar power system replaced diesel generators that ran nonstop during several decades of Navy and Coast Guard presence on SEFI, and won the refuge an environmental leadership award from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. But the life of the solar batteries had come to an end.

A Pave Hawk flown by the California Air National Guard’s 129th Air Rescue Wing lands on Southeast Farallon Island

This past week, Mike McGoey of the company NexGen returned to SEFI to replace the batteries. The 48 extremely heavy batteries (300 lbs. each) were carried to the island by two Pave Hawk helicopters from the California Air National Guard’s 129th Air Rescue Wing. They also removed the 12 old batteries (1500 lbs. each). It took 7 trips, but all the new batteries were delivered safely, and we are so grateful for their assistance.

Mike McGoey of NexGen installs the new batteries: he also installed the original batteries in 1997.

Charles Whitefield and Mike McGoey hard at work making sure we have solar power to support the research station.

Mendel Stewart, the manager of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s entire San Francisco Bay Wildlife Refuge complex – of which the Farallon Island Wildlife Refuge is just one part – visited SEFI to oversee the delivery of the batteries. Derek Lee, PRBO’s winter Farallones biologist, showed Mendel the main northern elephant seal breeding beaches and Steller sea lion haulouts. After all, the wildlife is what we are out here to monitor and protect. Thanks to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, NexGen, and the California Air National Guard, PRBO scientists are able to continue conducting research into one of the world’s most productive and important marine environments, powered by the sun!

Mendel Stewart of the USFWS and Derek Lee of PRBO Conservation Science survey the elephant seals on Sand Flat.