christmas lights

Wind Power used for Thousands of Carbon Neutral Christmas Lights!

December/2007: I was curious what the carbon footprint of the 17,000 lights I have up for 2007 is ... and the calculation is pretty simple. The (measured) current draw is 65 Amps, which is about 7,000 Watts. Multiply that by 5 hours/day times ~40 days ... and then assume that some percentage of the time the lights are turned OFF by Internet surfers, and you end up with about a MegaWatt-Hour of electricity consumed. At 10 cents/KWH, my electrical cost is about $100 ... ignoring the extra cent/KWH surchage since I do Wind Power ... which is "Clean" power to begin with!

The Carbon Calculator shows that is 0.61 tons of CO2. This is equivalent to 100 Therms of Natural Gas, 110 Gallons of Milk (yes, U.S. Dairy Center says one gallon has 11 pound CO2 footprint!), 70 Gallons of Gasoline, or 3,500 airlines miles. I.e. one cross-country airline trip emits as much CO2 as my 17,000 Christmas Lights do for the entire holiday season - D'OH! ;-)

BTW, this doesn't even account for the fact that some people may decide to view the Christmas Lights via my web site rather than burning fossil fuels by driving over ... so I think Al Gore would be proud ... plus I even did a carbon offset. Regardless, the $3/day in electrical costs are well worth the joy it brings to people (especially the kids) when they see the display in person and/or the web. Plus over $20,000 has been raised for Celiac Disease Research.

November/2006: A letter was published in the Boulder Daily Camera. I sent a response, but it didn't get published - both are attached below.

Published in BDC Open Forum on November 21st, 2006
*LIGHTS* - *This Christmas, less can be more*

Every year, the Daily Camera does a story honoring the beautiful displays of holiday lights in our community.

In the 2006 Season of Light, I'd like to make a plea that the Camera seek out the most /imaginative/ displays, not the most extravagant and energy-intensive. In a year that's seen global warming established as a fact in most minds, as well as a threat to our kids and theirs, it seems to me wrong-headed to pile on the lights (unless solar powered!) or to praise anyone for doing so.

With a little imagination, and encouragement from community leaders (such as yourself), we can do more with less and be the better for it.

Here was my response to that ...
An Open Forum letter a week ago encouraged Boulder residents to be more imaginative (rather than just have more lights) with their Christmas Displays in order to reduce the impact on Global Warming. As someone who is often called Clark Griswold this time of the year, here's what I'm doing along those lines - may also provide ideas for others:

  1. Less Lights - "only" 15,000 this year - down from 26,000 in 2005.
  2. Xcel Wind Power - Will be the 3rd year I've been in this program.
  3. Carbon Offset - even though I'm using "clean" energy, I made a contribution to CarbonFund.Org for twice last year's 2 Megawatt-Hours of electrical power consumption - i.e. these are Carbon Neutral Christmas Lights.
  4. For the second year in a row, you can (really) view the display on the Internet via live webcams. I.e. you don't need to burn fossil fuels by driving to see it in person.
  5. Just like 2005 (but not 2004), environmentally inclined Internet surfers can go to the website and turn the lights OFF. Be forewarned that people from around the world (157 countries during December) enjoy seeing 'em ON ... so you will have to "battle" for control.
  6. Lights off after 10:00 - I use a master timer so the display is typically only active between 5:00-10:00MST nightly. The overseas web surfers would like 'em left on all night, but I have great neighbors and figure they deserve a rest from the blinking lights.

Being an open-minded Republic of Boulder resident, I respect that some people still may not feel that is enough. However, many folks don't realize that the cost to run the 26,000 Christmas Lights in 2005 was $5/day . i.e. one Double Peppermint Latte.

And for me, that.s plenty well worth it for the joy it brings to people and especially the kids when they see the display in person and/or on the web. "Imaginative" additions this year are giant Inflatable Elmo and Homer Simpson - D'OH! So while my Christmas Lights might be a bit tacky, they make an effort to be environmentally conscious; plus they are just a darn lotta fun. ;-)

Finally, the Internet site has garnered thousands of dollars in donations to charity to help find a cure for Celiac Disease - something my kids have. So you better believe that is lit up again for 2006!

Merry Christmas and HO-HO-HO, Alek Komarnitsky

October/2005: I read about a local campaign to get people to sign up for renewable energy and the Halloween Lights are now wind powered. When I did this back in Christmas/2002, I actually had some people asked me where the windmill was on my property! ;-) In 2002, you just ante'd up some extra buck every month - the new approach is an an extra surcharge (basically a $1 per 100 KWH) on your electric bill that goes to Colorado wind farms. Sign up here if you are an Xcel Energy customer. I signed up for 100% wind power (outa my own pocket this time) and my electric meter spins pretty fast when I have my holiday lights up, so I hope those windmills can keep up! ;-)

December/2002: David Kovsky challenged me to put these Xmas lights on Wind Power, which requires I pay Public Service some extra dollars. He has backed up his words and is sending me a check (I very much respect folks who walk the talk) ... sooo ... if I anyone else would like to contribute toward this worthy cause, pls send me an Email for details and contact info. I will use any funds sent to cover the cost of the light electricity and any extra will either be used for more lights (heh, heh! ;-) and/or donated (at least 50%) to some sort of local charity - probably the preschool where my 4 -year old goes. This is an unexpected "twist" that I hadn't anticipated ... but I'm willing to roll with it since it seems like it's a "good" thing to do.