Trees Versus SPVs: Which Do You Hug?

You would think that a row of 10-year old Sequoia or "redwood" trees, with prospects of living hundreds of years, would hardly be able to grow fast enough to shade a nearby residential solar panel array, which has a design life of only 30 years. But, in California, legal precedent is being tested over just such a struggle. At the 'root' of the debate - and at the root of the law - is contention over which entities, trees or SPV's, have the greatest potential for climate mitigation.


In a case with statewide significance, the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office is pursuing a Sunnyvale couple under a little-known California law because redwood trees in their backyard cast a shadow over their neighbor's solar panels...

"It's not that we think trees are more or less important than solar collectors. It's that our state's leaders have said under the following circumstances, solar takes precedence," said Ken Rosenblatt, supervising Santa Clara County deputy district attorney for environmental protection.The law was written by former Assemblyman Chuck Imbrecht, a Ventura Republican, as a way to guarantee, amid the energy crises of the 1970s, that people who installed solar panels wouldn't see a drop in their investment from nearby trees.

It affects only trees planted after 1979, and bans trees or shrubs from shading more than 10 percent of a neighbor's solar panels between 10 a.m. and 2
p.m.

It does not apply to trees or shrubs that were there before the solar panels were installed. But - and here's the key distinction - it does apply to existing trees and shrubs that later grew big enough to shade the solar panels. A violation is an infraction, like a parking ticket, but with fines of up to $1,000 a day.

Wasn't it Robert Frost who poetically challenged the idea that 'good fences make good neighbors?' Apparently this 19'th Century platitude is getting another challenge where trees make the fence and solar panels are involved. Surpassing the stone fence age, in the Age Of Climate Change, we must find new ways of Mending Wall.

Via::San Jose Mercury News, "Sunnyvale homeowners told to cut redwoods that block solar panels" Image credit::Mercury News.

Tags: Alternative Energy | California