Environmental Grudge Match: Solar Panels vs. Trees

May 20, 2010
1:00 – 2:00pm EDT
National Webcast
Heat-beating, energy-saving shade is one of the most direct benefits of residential trees, but what happens when that shade falls on solar panels? With the increased interest in solar panels as a clean energy alternative, the conflict between trees and solar panels has become a hot topic. The public believes that having to choose between energy technologies such as clean coal and nuclear power instead of energy conservation strategies such as shade trees and greenroofs is a false choice, but that’s not how some legislatures and courts are moving. We can do both and must.

Downloadable Resources:
Environmental Grudge Match: Solar Panels vs. Trees Resource List
Rhonda Berry, President & CEO, Our City Forest (San Jose, CA)
In a 2008 Santa Clara County court decision, a family was ordered to cut down two redwoods that were blocking the sunlight to a neighbor’s solar panels. Regardless of whether a tree predates the solar panel, the state’s Solar Shade Control Act requires homeowners to keep their trees or shrubs from shading more than 10% of a neighbor’s solar panels during the times of day when the sun is strongest. Early rulings have interpreted the law to exempt the existing canopy, but do not provide for new growth either by existing or new trees.
Dan Staley, Urban Planner (Aurora, CO)
Dan Staley is an Urban Planner in Aurora, CO. His practice integrates land use and environmental planning to maximize the benefits of green infrastructure for the built and natural environments. His current work deals with the intersection of trees and preserving solar access for photovoltaic panels. Based on peak charging hours, he explores how forestry professionals can expand their practice and expertise by partnering with builders and developers to help them select and site trees that will not encroach on solar access plane over time.
Webcast attendees will learn about:
* Perspectives from the forestry, planning, and solar industries.
* Laws regarding trees, shade, and solar access.
* Solutions for avoiding and resolving tree and solar panel conflict.
* Preventative roles for arborists, landscape architects, nonprofits, and planners.
* Working with the public to manage and mitigate this issue.
About the Webcast Series
The Webcast Series is the Alliance for Community Trees’ bimonthly webcast series held at the lunch hour and made possible through support from The Home Depot Foundation and USDA Forest Service. The goal is to create informal training opportunities for local urban and community forestry organizations. The content is geared to mainly serve the needs of volunteer organizations and community groups, although webcasts are open to all.
The trainings leverage local successes by amplifying to a larger audience the model organizations’ methods, materials, and approaches. Sessions are planned to last no more than one hour, with two presenters speaking on the same topic from slightly different perspectives, each for 10-15 minutes, followed by 10-15 minutes of questions and answers.