I attended a recent seminar in San Diego entitled Trees and Solar Power: Natural Partners, sponsored by the California Urban Forest Council (CAUFC). It was a very informative seminar, bringing together professionals from the solar and tree industries, as well as city planners, landscape architects, arborists and related professionals.
Even with decades experience as a landscape contractor, certified arborist, professional horticulturist and land development infrastructure project manager, I was not aware of the current solar and arboriculture laws. For example, the State of California and many other states enacted solar legislation decades ago. Due to the oil crisis in the 1970’s and 1980’s, there was increased interest in promoting alternative energy sources. Many states adopted laws to encourage renewable energy technologies, solar being one of them.
In 1978, California enacted the Solar Shade Control Act, in part to protect consumer rights to install and operate solar energy systems on a home or business and to protect consumer rights to access sunlight. In 2008, the law was amended due to a very public controversy between two Santa Clara County residents being criminally prosecuted and convicted under the Act for allowing their redwood trees to cast shade on a neighbors solar panels.
Based on the Solar Shade Act of 2008, a site plan reflecting the pre-existing conditions at the time a solar system is installed should be a mandatory permit and legal requirement. As lawsuits increase due to conflicts between trees shading solar collectors, a site plan showing trees in place pre-existing a solar installation will become an important legal instrument.
We derive many benefits from large trees, from their beauty and aesthetics to the shade and passive cooling affect they have on our homes and businesses. The same is true for deciduous trees in the winter when they drop their leaves, permitting solar radiation to warm our homes. In a residential setting, large existing trees will invariably cast shading onto a structure. It is incumbent upon a solar company to analyze shading from the Client and neighboring trees for correct solar panel design and installation.
If a solar company identifies trees as a potential shading conflict with a rooftop solar installation, a certified arborist and or professional horticulturist should be added to the design team. Depending on the tree species, growth form, and distance from the structure, there may be several alternatives available to mitigate tree shading without complete tree removal or butchering the tree through indiscriminate topping.
Have a certified arborist or professional horticulturist consult with the solar company to ensure retention of the desired landscape aesthetics combined with the energy savings benefits of rooftop solar.
Read the full article at Trees and Solar-Environmental Conflict or Can the Two Co-Exist?