Sunday, November 16, 2008

New Green Building Litigation In The Offing--Shade Trees v. Solar Panels

The LA Times had a story about a neighborly spat over shade trees v. solar panels. Apparently, the Shade Control Act in California prevents shade trees from blocking more than 10% of sunlight from a solar array:

It protects homeowners' investments in solar panels, which can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Property owners whose trees block the sun from more than 10% of their neighbors' panels can be fined as much as $1,000 a day if they refuse to trim them.


Although GBL has not heard of this particular strain of litigation before, NIMBY issues are not new to solar installations. See here for a story on local zonign laws which originally prevented Al Gore from installing solar panels on his Tennessee home.

3 comments:

David said...

We recently discussed this, and related easement/nuisance issues, in my property class. I remember reading about the Sunnyvale case this past January and marveling at the irony of cutting down trees for the sake of solar power. It is good to see that come Jan. 1 solar panels won't take priority over trees.

Thanks for posting!

David Sokol said...

Thanks for the article! I had seen a similar story (the Sunnyvale one) back in January, and it is interesting to hear of new developments.

At least now we don't have to worry about the irony of trees being cut down for solar panels.

ARCKTIP said...

I am curious if this type of litigation is happening or has happened in other states that have seen significant subsidization of photovotaics. As a designer and a social historian I must admit I find this particular litigation to be peculiar because all designers know that in areas with extreme solar exposure a shade tree will ultimately conserve more energy (by lowering the load on an HVAC system or cooling air currents entering a naturally ventilated building) than is gained by the use of photovoltaics. Perhaps if the landscaping of these homes had been originally designed to maximize shade, then the homeowner would not have elected to add photovoltaics in that particular location.

I see this litigation having potentially serious and ridiculous extensions should courts rule in favor of the photovoltaics; because, following such logic a homeowner might then be able to argue that a neighbor's existing tree, casting shade on her house, must be cut down so that she might get the greatest amount of sunlight hitting the photovoltaics she wants to install on her house.

If our society, when pursuing the conservation of energy, chooses high cost technology over proven low-cost methods (such as shade trees) we all lose.