This tree puts a unique spin on green.
The Embassy Festival of Trees features a new attraction this year: a tree powered by, possibly, you.
The alternative-energy tree won't be sucking up electricity from Indiana Michigan's power grid. Rather, visitors to the Festival of Trees will be allowed to hop on a bike connected to a generator and pedal away. The generator creates energy that goes into a power pack that lights the tree.
Because the power pack can store energy, the strand of lights will stay on for a while even when no one is pedaling. When the power starts running low, an alarm will sound indicating it's time to start pedaling again.
Embassy Marketing Director Dana Poffenberger came up with the idea of installing an alternative-energy tree, and she wanted to make it interactive.
She enlisted the help of Rob Finn of Service Electric. He and an employee, Jim Flannigan, took about half a day to put together the power pack, circuit protector and generator that power the tree lights. The power pack converts DC or direct current into AC or alternating current, Finn said. The bicycle is on loan from Fort Wayne Outfitters and Bike Depot.
In the spirit of going green, the tree's ornaments are all made from recycled or natural products. Joe Driver of Clear Lake contributed “sea glass” for the handmade ornaments. Driver, who makes jewelry, gets wine bottles from Satek Winery in Fremont. He breaks the bottles in a bucket and then processes the pieces of brown, green, blue and white glass in a tumbler to dull the edges and give the glass the patina of sea glass. He drilled holes in the glass and then passed them on to Ann Beeching, a local designer and member of the Green Build Coalition. Driver also gave Beeching seed pods off a trumpet vine.
Beeching used copper wire left over from electrical jobs to string together pieces of glass into ornaments. She also used the copper wire to hang the pods and ornaments from the tree. Little curlicues of copper wire add a decorative touch. The tree topper is the broken neck of a wine bottle, with a spray of sea glass coming out the top.
Don Ayres Pontiac-GMC-Honda sponsored the tree, and Sweetwater Sound underwrote the purchase of the electrical equipment, which Finn said cost about $700 to $800.
That price tag might dissuade people who think they can build their own power source to light a Christmas tree, Finn noted. Although he was pleased about generating electricity off the power grid, he noted the cost would be prohibitive for most people — and then there's the issue of who's going to spend much of their holidays pedaling a bicycle in place.
“It's a great idea, certainly a good start, but we've got a long way to go,” Finn said.