Electronic Design

New Year's Eve Ball Celebrates Its Centennial By Going Green

As the stroke of midnight approaches on December 31, the throng of revelers in New York City’s Times Square and billions of TV viewers worldwide will count down and gaze at a descending, brilliantly lit ball to mark the new year—no surprise there. However, the redesigned ball may raise eyebrows as it shines twice as bright as last year’s ball, using half the power..

With the tradition hitting the century mark, the event’s organizers thought the ball should reflect today’s energy-conscious culture. The new ball, which came together through the efforts and contributions of nine companies, consists of a massive array of LEDs and Waterford crystals, tethered together via a unique lighting system (Fig. 1). A new aluminum skeleton supports the entire system.

“Times Square has always been an arena where the latest and greatest cutting-edge technology is unveiled and showcased. It’s also a neighborhood that’s rich in tradition,” says Tim Tompkins, president of the Times Square Alliance, an event co-organizer. “This year, the ball has been re-envisioned and re-invented.”

This year’s ball contains 9576 Luxeon K2 LEDs donated by Philips Lumileds, replacing last year’s 600 bulbs (Fig. 2). That translates to a brightness increase from 291,541 lumens to 625,033 lumens. Nonetheless, power consumption dropped from approximately 30,000 W to 15,000 W. With half the power and twice the light, it’s four times more efficient, says Brett Andersen, general manager, Focus Lighting.

The ball has two layers, and Focus’ solid-state lighting system takes advantage of both. Color LEDs are used to illuminate the 672 Waterford crystals (also donated), which are stylized with a radiating sunburst design and cut into triangles, while white LEDs light the geodesic aluminum skeleton. A mirrored baffle was built for each crystal. The combination of the two LED layers and mirrors sets in motion an unending, pulsing array of inner reflections. The ball also features a palette of 25 vivid colors.

Lapp USA provided the power supply for the LEDs and animation. The Olflex FD 855 P supply provides low-halogen materials with an expanded temperature range. The supply’s cable is built with rugged insulation and jacketing materials. Thus, it can withstand colder temperatures and higher winds, which will be in tune with the potentially harsh environment atop 1 Times Square. The RoHS-compliant (Restrictions on Hazardous Substances) cable will be lowered with the ball.

On a similar note, another New York City tradition, the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, took on a different flavor. The first “green” tree, standing 84 feet tall, is bedecked with 30,000 multicolor LEDs. Strung together on five miles of wire, the LEDs are expected to reduce power consumption from 3510 kWh to 1297 kWh per day.

A new solar-powered roof installed on Rockefeller Center will help power the tree’s LEDs. According to installer Tishman Speyer, the new 18,000-square-ft roof consists of an array of 365 solar panels and will generate more electricity in its first year than the tree lights will consume over the 42 days they’re lit.

TAGS: Components
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