Another new disclosure?…Trees & Solar

As an open house visitor and I stood chatting on the home’s lovely deck overlooking Pillar Point Harbor, we also noticed the the neighbors’ trees continuing their reach toward the blue sky – that day 🙂 – as they hugged the adjoining fence.  My visitor commented about the trees vs. solar panels story, widely reported, including a San Jose Mercury News article on 7/23/08, and in theGlobal Edition of the New York Times on 4/7/08.

You may recall this story surfaced a few months ago centered around a Santa Clara county homeowner and the question of who has greater rights, the homeowner with the trees, in this case redwoods, or the homeowner with the solar panels.  The disagreement had been going on for some time with each homeowner hoping to protect the investment each had made in their home – one – trees, and the other – photovoltaic solar panels, with an undercurrent of  “Who is greener?”.

Even though the existing law, the Solar Shade Control Act, signed by Jerry Brown in 1978, favored the panels, the new/amended law approved in April 2008, SB 1399, favors the trees.

“Under the old law, property owners could be required to trim back their trees or face criminal prosecution for public nuisance and fines of up to $1,000 per violation if the branches grew to shade someone’s solar panels. It didn’t matter if the trees were planted before or after the panels were installed.

Under the new law, trees can grow to shade solar panels without the tree owner facing a penalty – as long as the trees were there first. If the solar panels were there first, the solar panel owner can seek redress through a civil lawsuit, but not criminal prosecution.”

Our community will get more energy resourceful, no doubt, especially with the goal to reach 20% renewable energy in CA by 2010.  The Half Moon Bay Coastside is about to have its third Solar and Sustainability Tour* on Saturday, September 27, 2008 from 1-4 p.m..  There will be another event on the peninsula – the Solar and Green Home Tour, October 2, 2008, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Our neighborhoods have wonderful pockets of sun ideal for solar panels and wonderful pockets of mature trees that make you feel like you’re in Tahoe.  We certainly must find a way for these to co-exist peacefully on our beautiful coastal communities.  Buyers will want to look at the surounding homes and trees if you plan to install solar panels onto your new home.

*To include your home or business on this tour and to learn more about local efforts, visit Sustainable Coastside of San Mateo for details.

More references & resources: – “In California:  It’s Solar Panels vs. Redwoods” blog:  “The Right to Sunlight”

Federal Tax Credits for Energy Efficiency

Cool Communities Shade Tree Progam

Go Solar California
-has a database of registered installers, contractors & retailers searchable by city, zipcode, area code, or name.