The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree is going "greener" — with energy-saving lights replacing old-fashioned bulbs on the towering evergreen this year. Weather permitting, the tree will also get some of its electricity from 363 solar panels just installed atop Rockefeller Center.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he hoped the change to the midtown Manhattan display will inspire the tens of millions of New Yorkers and tourists who see the tree every year.
"Now they will see an example of green leadership which may inspire them to make greener choices in their own lives," Bloomberg said Tuesday.
The 84-foot-tall Norway spruce will be covered with 30,000 multicolored light-emitting diodes, or LEDs, strung on five miles of wire.
Using the energy-efficient LEDs to replace incandescent bulbs will reduce the display's electricity consumption from 3,510 to 1,297 kilowatt hours per day. The daily savings is equal to the amount of electricity consumed by a typical 2,000-square-foot house in a month.
The owners of Rockefeller Center, Tishman Speyer, also showed off a new solar energy array that will generate electricity on the roof of one of the complex's buildings, the largest privately owned solar roof in Manhattan.
The solar panels will help light the tree and are also tied into the city grid. In fact, their biggest contribution will be in summer when the grid is often near capacity due to air conditioning use.
After the official tree lighting ceremony on Nov. 28, the Christmas tree will be illuminated from 5:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. most days through the first week of January.
The Rockefeller Center tradition was started in 1931, when construction workers building the first part of the office building complex erected a 20-foot Balsam fir amid the site's mud and rubble.
After the tree is taken down in January, it will be cut into lumber to be used in houses built by Habitat for Humanity.