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Your neighbor’s trees vs. your solar panels (or vice versa)

Redwoods_2Here’s a dilemma that pits tree hugger against tree hugger:

What happens when one home’s trees block another home’s solar panels?

This problem is not new, but with increased interest in rooftop solar panels, the consequences are more than aesthetics or sunny days versus shady days. Now we’re talking about a homeowner’s ability to generate electricity or heat water.

This conflict has played out in the courts in Sunnyvale, Calif., according to an Associated Press article, where one homeowner asked prosecutors to file charges because his neighbor’s towering redwoods blocked sunlight to his solar panels. Naturally, the tree people resisted.

But after more than six years of legal wrangling, the article noted, a judge recently ordered the neighbors to cut down two of their eight redwoods, citing a state law that protects a homeowner’s right to sunlight.

The Solar Shade Control Act was put into place some 30 years ago, when fewer homeowners had solar systems. (Remember Jimmy Carter’s heyday of solar hope?)

That law says that homeowners must keep their trees or shrubs from shading more than 10% of a neighbor’s solar panels during the times of the day when the sun is strongest, between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Sun-blocking trees already in place when the panels are installed are exempt, but new growth is subject to the law.

What do you think? Is this a good law?

Listen to a podcast of the story on public radio station KQED.


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