Times Square Icons Go Green for New Year's Eve

Times Square Icons Go Green for New Year's Eve

New York's Times Square ushers in the New Year with a bigger, brighter and greener light ball this evening and billboards that are to be powered by wind energy, starting with the giant Coca-Cola sign at 47th and Broadway.

The efforts to green the traditional New Year's Eve celebration that's attended by as many as a million people and telecast around the world also got a boost from Philips Electronics, the maker of the LEDs that light up the shimmering geodesic sphere, and ConEdison Solutions, which oversees the electric supply agreement for the billboards' windpower.

At 12 feet in diameter, weighing nearly 6 tons and covered with almost 3,000 triangular Waterford crystals, the Times Square Ball has doubled in size and contains three times as many LEDs as it did the year before, says Philips. The company upgraded ball with 32,256 of its Philips Luxeon LEDs.

The Times Square Ball contains three times as many LEDs as last year. Courtesy of Philips
Despite the growth, the lighting system is 10 to 20 percent more efficient than the Philips LEDS used the year before. The company says the new ball consumes about the same amount of energy in an hour as two conventional ovens.

Each LED can be controlled digitally, enabling the ball to produce as many as 16 million colors and various effects — even though all the LEDs are never illuminated at the same time.

For this year's celebration, the message etched on the sphere's 1,728 new Waterford crystals is "Let There Be Joy" with an image of an angel with uplifted arms.

Assembling the New Year's Eve icon. Courtesy of Philips
The ball also bears 960 crystals from last year etched with 2008's starburst motif and the phrase, "Let There Be Light."

More stats about the new ball are available here from Philips. History on the ball, whose (controlled) vertical drop at 11:59 p.m. triggers the countdown to the New Year, is available here from the Times Square Alliance.

The Coca-Cola Company says it started what has become a joint greening effort by firms with some 30 billboards on three buildings in Times Square.

Coca-Cola's making its Times Square sign a symbol for a greener 2009. //www.flickr.com/photos/23413532@N02/2305073414/
The beverage firm was the first to opt for wind-generated energy provided by ConEdison Solutions to power the Coke sign at 47th and Broadway, and other companies swiftly followed suit for their billboards.

The shift to a clean renewable energy source for the signs is expected to prevent the release of an estimated 1,866 metric tons of carbon dioxide each year, Coca-Cola said.

Times Square isn't alone in greening New Year's Eve festivities. Cumberland, Maryland, will be using an LED light ball for its celebration this evening. The ball is three feet in diameter and contains 300 LEDs.