Battle Pits Solar Energy Against Trees

San Francisco, CA (February 12, 2008)- A homeowner in San Francisco asked his neighbor to chop down his redwood trees because their shadow is interfering with his solar panels. The neighbor refused. The feud has ended up in court, and the results could have ramifications statewide.

As reporter Paul Rogers explained in the story, an obscure 1978 state law says that even trees and shrubs planted before a solar energy system is installed must be trimmed back or removed if years later they grow tall enough to shade the panels. When the couple, Richard Treanor and Carolynn Bissett, refused to cut down their redwoods, the district attorney went after them.
State Sen. Joe Simitian, who sits on two committees that deal with environmental and energy issues, said he hasn’t researched the issue but suspects it’s time to revisit the solar access laws. “It must have seemed like a quirky little law back in 1978 given the number of solar panels we had in those days,” he said. “But now it seems far less quirky and presents a far more significant set of issues.” The state law, for example, conflicts with local tree preservation laws. And it contains a loophole to exempt trees on public land. Simitian raised the other, obvious problem: “The law grandfathers in your trees unless your trees grow – which is the point of trees, isn’t it?”
Related Resources:
NPR Morning Edition- Battle Pits Solar Energy Against Trees
San Jose Mercury News
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