Reader Question: Trees vs. Solar Panels

Donald M. asks: "My wife and I have recently bought a house and it looks like it has the perfect roof for solar panels. However, in the way of the south-facing view of the sun, on our property there are a few big trees that block the sun. Would it be better to cut the trees down in order to put solar panels on the roof? Or leave the trees with their habitats for the creatures that live in them and the shade that they provide? It's quite a bit of tree to cut down. Any suggestions on this moral quandary I'm in would be greatly appreciated." Our suggestion: First, you need to know where your electricity currently comes from. Coal? Hydro? Gas? Nuclear? Depending on what the source is, the benefits of going solar will vary. You might also want to consider other ways than solar panels to get clean energy: A small wind turbine might work if you can get it high enough above the trees and the wind blows enough where you live, but it's usually more trouble than solar.

The simplest solution probably is to contact your local utility and find out if offer green power. In some places, going 100% clean costs as much as one or two cups coffees per week. If you go that route and have money left over, you can invest it in making the house more energy-efficient (insulation, geothermal heat pump, replacing old appliances, etc).

Readers, please leave your suggestions in the comments. (Note that the picture is NOT of Donald's house.)

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