As a transplanted New Yorker new to D.C., I've gotten a bit nostalgic this past week for all the holiday trappings of my former home: The massive twinkling UNICEF snowflake that dangles above Fifth Avenue (outshining anything in Tiffany's windows across the way). The smell of, yes, chestnuts, roasting over the street vendors' fires. And while there was the frustrating certainty that I'd be elbowed by tourists on my commute through Rockefeller Center, I could grant them some forgiveness once I got my daily glimpse of the spectacular Christmas tree.
So I was glad to hear that my old city is taking on some of my new interests. Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced last week that the famous tree, brought in this year from Connecticut, would be decked with 30,000 energy efficient LED light bulbs. And, as part of the Mayor's expansive PlaNYC program, Rockefeller Center is adding a solar roof to its collection of buildings. Here's how it all breaks down:
Tishman Speyer has installed 363 General Electric solar panels on the roof of 45 Rockefeller Plaza to help reduce the building's electricity consumption....The solar-powered energy will help reduce peak electrical demand, especially during sun-intensive summer months when electricity use increases, which will in turn alleviate pressure on New York City's electrical grid. The solar roof will keep 67,392 lbs of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere each year and more than 2,000,000 lbs over its 30-year lifespan.
The lights on this year's Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree will represent the latest in energy-efficient LED (Light Emitting Diode) technology. The tree's 30,000 LEDs, on five miles of wire, will draw a fraction of the power that is traditionally required by the tree, reducing energy consumption from 3,510 kilowatt hours to 1,297 kilowatt hours per day, saving as much energy as a single family would use in a month in a 2,000-square-foot home. The new solar energy roof will generate more electricity in its first year than the tree lights will consume over the 42 days they will be illuminated.
Add to the fact that the tree (an 84-foot tall Norway spruce) was cut
with a handsaw this year to reduce energy consumption, and that its
branches and trunk will be milled into lumber used to build homes for
Habitat for Humanity, and we'd say that's the greenest Christmas tree
we've seen in a long time, certainly the greenest in the history of Rockefeller Center.
Speaking of which, the folks over at Gothamist have a great post on the 75-year history of the tree, which was apparently started by construction workers looking to break up the monotony of their workday while building the plaza. And for a great piece about one New Yorker's first glimpse of the tree this year (on Columbus Avenue!) check out writer Ted Hesson's blog, AndWhySee?
To get your own glimpse of the tree, be sure to check out this year's tree-lighting ceremony, held on November 28th.