Solar-powered Christmas? Energy-efficient holiday trees coming to Colorado Lagoon

This year, Long Beach will have nine solar-powered holiday trees floating on the Colorado Lagoon, according to a city official.

Solar-powered Christmas? Energy-efficient holiday trees coming to Colorado Lagoon
Holiday trees float in the Colorado Lagoon. This year, the city will replace them with solar-powered trees. Photo by Brandon Richardson

When the lighted Christmas trees in Alamitos Bay turn on this Thanksgiving, you might notice something different about some of them (or not) as the city plans to convert nine trees to solar power this year.

“Trees in the Bay” is a beloved holiday tradition in Long Beach. The meticulous process of getting them set up to illuminate several waterways in the city is a months-long undertaking.

This year, the nine trees that will float atop the Colorado Lagoon will be solar-powered. But it won’t be the first time the city has used a solar-powered tree in the bay, Todd Leland, the city’s Marine Bureau Manager, told the Marine Advisory Commission Thursday afternoon.

“We thought, let’s put this out there and see if it’s such a change that it’s going to create any negative feedback…and it didn’t do that,” Leland said of a lone solar-powered tree that was set up in Spinnaker Cove last year.

“We’re taking that as a positive and we’re looking to grow from that.”

The solar-powered trees are expensive, with each coming at a cost of about $3,500, Leland said. The ones planned for Colorado Lagoon this season will cut down on staff time, Leland said, and also remove the potential for theft.

Become a Watchdog today.

Last year, the power cable that ran along the shore of the lagoon was stolen twice, Leland said.

How much the city will end up saving on the new Trees in the Bay is still unknown. Leland said the city hasn’t determined how much electricity the rest of the 67 trees each draw from the electrical grid so it’s hard to determine the cost savings.

But he added that going solar is more about reducing the city’s carbon footprint, even if it’s a little bit at a time.

“It’s not so much as the return on investment as it is implementing a program that is demonstrating resiliency,” Leland said.

It’s unclear when the city will deploy more solar-powered trees throughout Alamitos Bay but Leland said it’s looking into replacing the rest of the incandescent bulbs with energy-efficient LED bulbs.

Commissioners were largely supportive of the announcement of the nine new solar-powered trees destined for the lagoon this year, but Commissioner Elizabeth Lambe questioned if the city had looked into the effects the LED lights could have on local wildlife.

Lambe serves as the executive director of the Los Cerritos Wetlands Land Trust and has pushed for the three new housing developments proposed near the 2nd & PCH shopping center, and the Los Cerritos Wetlands, to be completed with wildlife-safe materials.

“I think if we’re going to put in a bunch of new lighting with LED, I think it’s a good idea to learn about the impacts of the year-round residents who aren’t human,” Lambe said.