Thinking of Getting Solar Panels? You May Need to Remove or Prune Trees First

If you have considered adding solar panels to your house or another building, one thing to keep in mind is whether the location you plan to add the panels (usually a roof) is shaded by any trees.

Providing shade is one of the main benefits of trees, but if they cast any shade on solar panels, the solar panels won’t work as well.

In this article, we’ll cover some aspects of tree work to think through before your solar panel installation.

Trees and Solar Panels Both Need Sunlight

Both trees and solar panels rely on sunlight. Trees, especially those that grow best in full sun, need sunlight to photosynthesize and create energy. Solar panels also need clear access to the sun; a study showed that shadows could reduce the solar panels’ ability to produce power by a third.

When trees cast a shadow on an area where solar panels will be installed, then there is a potential problem.

 Man installs solar panels on a roof with a blue sky and trees in the background.

Removing Trees for Solar Panels

Most of the time, trees will need to be removed or significantly pruned in order to reduce the shade cast onto a roof or structure where the solar panels will be installed.

At American Climbers, we have worked with solar panel installers to ensure that the trees that need to be removed are safely removed and the trees that need to be pruned are properly pruned so that the panels receive the optimum level of sunlight.

Most solar panel installers will know which trees need to go to provide enough sunlight to the panels, so the property owner won’t have to decide which trees to remove.

To Remove or to Prune?

When property owners have a choice between removing or pruning trees in order to provide sunlight access to the solar panels, it can be a tough decision.

Removing a tree also removes the benefits that the tree provides, including protection from wind, shade from the hot sun, and shelter and food for wildlife.

However, it’s important to keep in mind that trees will continue to grow, so a tree that you choose to prune instead of remove may need to be pruned again every few years (or more often).

American Climbers can take care of removing or pruning trees to provide sunlight access for solar panels.

An aerial view of a building and with the trees to be removed marked with yellow circles and x's.

Laws Regarding Trees and Solar Panels

Trees are recognized as an important part of our urban environment and therefore, more and more municipalities are taking steps such as requiring tree removal permits or tree replacements for removed trees.

Many states, including Massachusetts, also have solar energy programs in place to promote the use of solar panels.

 Learn about the Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target Program, or SMART >>

There are laws, regulations, and requirements for both solar panels and trees, which can make the installation of solar panels confusing.

On top of that, there have been some noticeable disputes between neighbors due to the conflict of trees versus solar panels, often when a neighbor’s tree or trees cast shade on another property’s solar panels.

 Read about a court case in California involving trees and solar panels >>

However, that doesn’t mean that you need to choose between trees and solar panels. Both can exist, even on the same property.

How Trees and Solar Panels can Co-Exist

Though both trees and solar panels rely on sunlight for energy, that doesn’t mean you have to choose between them.

Both solar panels and trees can exist on the same property, which allows you the benefits that trees provide while allowing you to save on energy costs.

Consider smaller trees

Large shade trees are the ones that often have to be removed to prevent ineffective solar panels. However, smaller trees such as ornamentals or fruit trees can still benefit your property without casting shade on rooftops.

Plan your tree plantings with solar panels in mind

If you know or suspect that solar panels are in your future, you can plan your tree plantings now to prepare for them. Plant trees away from any structures where solar panels may be added, and make sure no shade lands on those structures throughout the year. Pay attention to neighboring properties and structures as well.

Solar panels mounted on a home roof with trees in the background.

American Climbers’ Recommendations for Trees and Solar Panels

If you plan to add solar panels soon, keep these things in mind:

Remove any dying or hazardous trees as soon as possible. This is true whether you have solar panels or not. Falling trees can damage solar panels (and buildings, cars, etc.).

If your solar panel installer recommends the removal of trees, be sure you hire a professional tree service such as American Climbers to ensure the trees are removed safely, efficiently, and correctly.

Schedule professional pruning for any trees that you want to keep but which will cast shade on the solar panels.

If you plan on installing solar panels on a structure in the future, don’t plant any trees on the sides of the structure that face west or southwest.

Avoid planting trees too close to a home or other building. Not only will this prevent trees from casting too much shade on solar panels, but it also gives the tree roots more room to grow, avoids problems with tree branches hitting the building, and ensures there is access between the tree and the building.

Keep your remaining trees well-maintained and pruned regularly.

Contact American Climbers to schedule your tree removal or tree pruning!

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