Tiny island in the Keys goes green

Was base camp for early railroad workers

A tiny island that was an early 1900s base camp for workers who built the historic Florida Keys Over-Sea Railroad has gone green.

Keys officials on Friday marked the conversion of the island's electrical system to solar power, making the educational facility and visitor attraction energy efficient.

A 105- by 16-foot solar array was installed to satisfy 90 to 95 percent of the electrical needs for the 5.3-acre islet beneath the old Seven Mile Bridge near Marathon.

For more than 100 years, all electricity was generated by steam or fossil fuels. But soaring fuel prices taxed the Pigeon Key Foundation's annual budget.

The $225,000 solar system generates 24 kilowatts and the financial payback is expected within five years. The Monroe County Tourist Development Council funded half the money.

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