How to Make Roofs and Trees Get Along
Trees and solar panels both do magnificent things for the environment. But in order to install solar panels,we’re asked to minimize the shade in our yards, sometimes by cutting down trees. Can solar panels and trees get along, and, if so, what is the ideal balance between the two?
Trees do many wonderful things to help the environment and our energy bills. First and foremost, they can store carbon dioxide, thus decreasing the amount of CO2 found in the atmosphere. Trees can also provide shade for your home, giving it a lower natural temperature, thus making your AC do less work—which, in turn, decreases your energy consumption. A full-grown tree placed well in your yard can save you about $3,000 over twenty years on your energy bill. They’re also beautiful in landscaping.
Solar panels also provide many benefits to Mother Nature and to our finances. Per year, one 5,000W solar panel system (the equivalent of 20 panels) can store more carbon dioxide than one hundred trees. And over the 20-year-lifetime of the panels, they can save you about $60,000.
While installing solar panels does save enough energy that it’s worth removing a tree or two, what’s the best way to combine the benefits of both? How can you have your solar cake and tree-eat it too?
If you have a two-sided roof, options abound! You could keep taller trees on the opposite side of the roof from your solar panels, and as long as they’re not redwoods (or any other tree that grows to more than 5-10 feet above your roof height), the solar panels will still be sufficiently irradiated to produce the max possible power. Trees should still generally be planted 15-20 feet from your home, both for your home’s foundation and to be sure that the branches don’t extend over your roof.
If branches do shade your panels too much, your first option is always to clip the problem branches and leave the rest to work their shade magic. Otherwise, if the decades-old trees in your front yard hold a special place in your heart and even clipping branches is too hard, your solar panels could be self-adjusting, automatically tilting to find the maximum sun exposure.
If you want more trees in your yard despite your solar panels, there are several species of trees that are short enough not to interfere with your panels. Certain species of crabapple trees grow to be only 6 feet tall. Certain species of dogwoods grow to be 10 feet tall—and their pink blossoms are gorgeous in spring. These shorter species of trees can be planted 8-10 feet from your home, and their shade helps cool your home while leaving your solar panels free to irradiation.
A combination of trees and solar panels will turn your home into the greenest home possible and will help you become more environmentally responsible!