City of Lights

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Marco Werman: I am Marco Werman. This is The World. Paris's famed Avenue des Champs-Ã?lysées is all lit up for the holiday season. Rings of lights adorn 200 hundred trees. The lights are programmed to cycle through 67 colors from red and green to blue and ten shades of white. Now if that all sounds a bit excessive in these troubled times don't fret. Organizers say a solar farm in southern France will ââ?¬Å?offsetââ?¬  all of the electricity needed to brighten up one of the world's most remarkable streets. Koert Vermeulen is one of the lighting designers. Koert, give us a snapshot. What would I see if I took a stroll down the Champs-Ã?lysées tonight?

Koert Vermeulen: I think you would be dazzled. The installation that we've put there is called "Tree Rings". We start with 3 rings, hula hoops if you want to, that we've placed around each tree - not all the trees because there are 588 of them, but 200 of them have this structure around them. We have an LED strip that goes around each of these rings, on the inside and on the outside. We control them all separately so that means that we can give a lot of colors, dynamic movement into this installation.

Werman: And I got to say, it's very futuristic. This isn't your conventional lights outlining tree branches motif. I mean, this is more like neon skirt hoops wrapping the trees. What do Parisians think about it?

Vermeulen: One out of 50 was negative and 49 were very good and very positive about it, which is kind of noble because we are doing something quite innovative, a real break with the past. That we got so much good reactions, actually, for us, is a very nice thing.

Werman: Yeah, and that 'break with the past', explain that. You're getting all of the energy sourced from a solar farm in southern France?

Vermeulen: Yes indeed, we did. From the outset, we wanted to actually put our solar panels on the structure itself, but the technology that we were supposed to be using wasn't far enough to be able to get to that point. So, in the end we looked into the compensation story where we have this farm who is doing 40 days generating the electricity that we need for the 49 days of the utilization that we have.

Werman: These hoops around the trees are illuminated with LED lights. I'm wondering if this more eco-friendly LED lights scheme can create the sort of intensity that Parisians are used to during the holidays. What are the capacities of LEDs to dazzle?

Vermeulen: At the moment we're looking into the third generation of LED lights. So, when we say that we are 35% more efficient than last time, it's due to that fact. We are still using the same LEDs that we also used last time with more static and just white lighting that we had. But, this third generation just gives us a lot more luminosity, efficiency for each electrical wattage that you put in there. The fact that we also control it dynamically, we can really create almost like a concert show that you see on the Champs-Ã?lysées and that's spread out over the 2.4 kilometers. That is quite amazing!

Werman: Now, some people say that LEDs are the wave of the future of lighting. Do you also see this as kind of a marketing ploy for your company?

Vermeulen: We use what we need to get our vision across. We still use incandescent lights for some things. We use a lot of LEDs because LEDs are really good and becoming very good and we use metal halides. It's really just the tool to get your vision across for us.

Werman: Koert Vermeulen, one of the designers of the eco-friendly holiday lights on the Champs-Ã?lysées in Paris, thanks a lot.

Vermeulen: Thank you very much.

Werman: We asked some folks in Paris what they thought of this year's Christmas lights. They gave us mixed reviews.

Man 1: Oh, they're very nice. I like them, absolutely.

Man 2: I've just seen it for now and I think they are quite ugly to me because of the [???].

Man 3: Oh, there're very, very nice. Yeah.

Man 4: I was expecting a little bit more from him.

Man 5: They don't look all that Christmassy, but they're still very nice.

Woman 1: Despite the fact they use 40% less energy, they could change the color and the design.

Woman 2: Gorgeous. Beautiful as it usually is.