Profile: Carmanah Lights a Bright Idea

April 3, 1998
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Carmanah Lights sounds like west coast cigarettes or low calorie beer for environmentalists, but they’re actually a bright idea from a new Victoria Company.

It started five years ago when David Green was sailing back from Fiji where he was teaching. On the return voyage he spent a lot of time thinking about what to do next.
    A partner in Axys a group of Sydney high-tech firms, he had taken the family to the South Pacific after selling his stake in the businesses.

One day at sea, the light went on, figuratively. Faced with the practical problem of trying to keep a white anchor light burning all night, he thought there had to be a niche for a better marine hazard light.

It took two years of research, development and knocking on doors, but Carmanah Research Ltd came up with a winning Solar Powered product.

The Canadian Coast Guard expressed interest, “All of a sudden there was a market and things started happening.”

Ironically the offices and manufacturing department are in the former Victoria Coast Guard base beside the Johnson Street Bridge.

The CGG bought 200 of the lights and the U.S. coast guard headquarters in Washington is evaluating half a dozen Carmanah lights, for which Green claims big advantages over existing products.

They are long lasting and cheaper. “We say five to eight years,” said Green. In fact the limiting factor is the built in batteries, which will wear out first, he said.

;One lower powered version which uses capacitors instead of batteries is said promised to be good for 10 to 15 years. Prices range from $100 to $240, much lower than existing lights.

They rely on low power demand and long life of light emitting diodes (LEDs), just like the little indicator light on your VCR or radio. There’s no conventional bulb with a filament to burn out.

His LED solar design has a shorter range that the bigger seasonal buoys and bigger ships to set them. Moving to Carmanah lights would save the two Coast Guards $15 million a year in maintenance and operation, Green said.

Fish farms, log booms, channel markers, marinas and bridges are other marine uses for long -life lights. Another market, potentially much bigger than marine applications, is highway hazard lights.

The whole LED light industry is taking off, he said. LEDs now are on new BC transit buses in much brighter brake and turn signal.

Green has a background in engineering, physics and oceanography-a multidisciplinary mix that’s reflected in Carmanah’s other activities.

Carmanah’s research also practices environmental forestry, a new field that grew out of forest practices Code’s stringent rules for protecting fish bearing streams and watersheds.

Logging roads are also being deactivated. Carmanah does the fieldwork and prepares the plans here in Victoria and from a Prince George office that serves central and Northern BC and Alberta.

Carmanah’s latest venture is something called ODFI, for optical dissipation factor instrumentation, an improved method of tracking power loss-dissipation-in electricity transmission.

The company has licensed the technology from the University of B.C. and set up Carmanah Engineering Subsidiary there to test and commercialize it.


Dr. David Green, Founder

Carmanah Technologies Inc.

Building 4, 203 Harbour Road, Victoria, BC, Canada   V9A 3S2

Fax: 250 380 0062