The Economist Continues the Debate: Trees vs. Solar

Some time ago, a TreeHugger reader sparked quite a debate about whether to clear trees so they could install solar panels on their roof. Now The Economist is discussing a similar issue, when one of their reporters discovered that you need sun if you are going to install solar panels. Apparently they found this out the hard way, after trying to have solar panels installed, but being told that their house was too wooded.

"The problem was perhaps blindingly obvious. It turns out that to install solar panels, you must have enough sun."

This information isn't as useless as it first sounds - one solar specialist quoted in the article explains that 10-20% of potential customers he visits turn out to have inappropriate sites:

"Greens by definition like trees, he notes; the downside is that trees block sunlight. 'I literally have had people ask me to install solar on the north side of a 150-foot hill, in a small clearing between trees. They might get three to four hours of sunlight a day,'"

Of course, the trees also offer the house shade, thus reducing energy costs in the summer (not to mention wildlife habitat and aesthetic considerations). And the author's suggestion of positioning panels in a neighboring field was quickly shot down, as the copper wire and trench work needed to run the power to the house would be prohibitively expensive. In the end, the reporter was advised to forget about solar, and invest in "an energy-efficient refrigerator, fluorescent light bulbs and other conservation-minded items" instead. So while we applaud the increased interest in solar power, we have to recognize that solar isn't for everyone. As the article suggests, "a sunny disposition does help"! ::The Economist::