Herald Journal - Enterprise Dispatch - Delano Herald Journal
Millerbernd custom designs ‘turtle-friendly’ lighting
April 4, 2011

By Linda Scherer
Staff Writer

WINSTED, MN – A slow and steady pace may help the turtle win a race, but it’s Millerbernd Systems Lighting division’s new Turtle Friendly Lighting that is designed to help him find his way home.

The Millerbernd turtle-friendly lighting received its Florida wildlife lighting certification last week because its shielded, low-to-the-ground amber light doesn’t interfere with the sea turtles’ environment and behavior.

Other types of brighter, whiter artificial lights lure sea turtles away from the beaches and ocean, drawing them to streets and parking lots, where they are exposed to predators or die from dehydration after long-time exposure to the sun, according to Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection.

When Millerbernd National Sales Director Mitch Gaida was in Florida on a business trip last year, he learned about the plight of the sea turtles from the sales reps in the area.

“When I thought about it, I thought, ‘we have all of the engineering design capabilities at Millerbernd Systems to design a stainless bollard to meet the Florida Fish and Game Department’s guidelines,’” Gaida said.

“This turtle-safe lighting is very, very important along the coastal areas,” Gaida said.

Sea turtles spend most of their lives in the water. Each spring, female sea turtles leave the ocean at night to deposit hundreds of eggs beneath the sand along the shore before returning to sea, according to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

After about 60 days, the eggs hatch, and the tiny turtles climb out of their nests to make their way back to the ocean, drawn by the reflection of the moon and stars on the water.

Coastal developments with bright artificial light are a threat to the sea turtles’ survival because it interferes with the turtle’s nesting ritual that has ensured the survival of their ancient species, according to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

All five species of Florida’s nesting sea turtles, the leatherback, loggerhead, green, hawksbill, and Kemp’s ridley, are listed as endangered or threatened, according to Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

So when Gaida returned home, he turned the Turtle Friendly Lighting project over to the Millerbernd custom lighting division.

The three main criteria required for wildlife lighting certification includes keeping the light low in both height and wattage. The tallest a bollard can be is 42 inches. The second requirement is keeping much of the light shielded so the light is directed to the ground.

“People are becoming more and more conscious of light pollution, and so much light and energy is wasted when light is scattered up into the sky. Using fixtures that are shielded directs the light to where you need it, on the ground,” Gaida said.

The final certification requirement is the use of long wave lengths. The yellow and red end of the color spectrum is less disruptive to turtles and other marine wildlife.

In just two months, Millerbernd Lighting had the fixture designed and submitted to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

“It was exciting to be able to react so quickly to the different changes in the marketplace,” Gaida said.

By installing amber LEDs in an existing bollard and sconce design, and upgrading the housing to 316 stainless steel, which has an exceptional corrosion resistance in coastal areas, according to Gaida, Millerbernd now has a line of cost-effective turtle-friendly stainless fixtures.

“From Millerbernd Lighting’s perspective, this was obviously a unique opportunity to leverage our background and expertise with engineering design and 316 stainless steel,” Gaida said.

“The fixtures not only meet Florida’s regulatory requirements, but can truly enhance the areas where they are installed while protecting our environment and hopefully, saving many turtles’ lives.”

A press release was sent out nationally last week to all of Millerbernd’s sales reps in the US and Canada announcing the environmentally friendly SS Turtle Bollard.

With the new LED platform, other LED colors can be used such as red, blue, green, yellow or amber.

This allows the possibility of commercial applications where a business has a certain corporate color that they may want to utilize. A bollard could be built using any LED color, according to Gaida.

In addition to its new Turtle Friendly Lighting, Millerbernd Lighting division offers dozens and dozens of fixtures with variations in heights and dimensions.

“Our biggest strength is our completed custom-built projects that are designed from concept to creation to delivery of the fixtures,” Gaida said.

“Millerbernd Lighting division will see growth again this year, just like we did last year, so this is an exciting evolving market of LED,” Gaida said.

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