How Cutting Trees Helps the Environment When You Install Solar
We’re all environmentalists at Solar.com. That’s why it sometimes comes as a surprise to our customers when we recommend that they trim a tree or two for their solar system. Unfortunately, sometimes two positive forces for the environment may run contradictory to one another. In this case, trimming your trees to open up your solar system to more direct sunshine is the clear eco-winner.
Quite simply, if you have large trees near the roof of your house, this causes shading on your solar system that will subsequently reduce the amount of electricity it produces. Even trees relatively distant from your roof may impact your system’s production in the early morning or late evening — times when you’re more likely to be home and directly consuming power generated from your system.
So trees can be tricky sometimes. That’s why when we design your system we make sure to take shading into account to determine where to place the panels on the roof.
Trimming Trees vs. Installing Solar
Unfortunately, it may be necessary to trim some trees around your roof to meet your energy needs. You may wonder how this will impact the environment. As an example, let’s say that you’ll need to trim three trees to optimize your solar system. We can easily compare the difference in carbon offset from a solar system and this group of trees.
As we all know, trees absorb carbon dioxide molecules and convert them into sugars via photosynthesis. According to American Forests, a single tree will do this at roughly a rate of 48 pounds of CO2 per year when fully mature. So three trees would absorb 144 pounds of CO2 per year.
A home solar system, on the other hand, reduces CO2 in the atmosphere by eliminating the need for your home’s energy to be derived from fossil-fuel sources like coal-fired power plants. In California, the U.S. Energy Information Agency showed that in 2015 the state’s power system emitted 0.62 pounds of CO2 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) of electricity produced. An average 7-kilowatt system in California would conservatively generate 11,000 kWh in one year — thereby reducing CO2 emissions by 6,820 pounds! That’s the same amount of work as 142 trees!
Installing Solar is Worth Trimming Your Trees
So there you have it. When comparing the amount of CO2 that is eliminated from the atmosphere, a rooftop PV system clearly outperforms a group of trees. To clear enough room for sunlight, often times only a few branches, not the entire tree, need to be sacrificed. Of course, it’s impossible to make this a true apples-to-apples comparison, for reasons such as:
- Trees provide many other environmental benefits, like providing nutrients and shelter to surrounding flora and fauna.
- Trees provide some advantages to homeowners too: they look great, provide shading to reduce the need for air conditioning, increase privacy, and reduce noise.
- When trees die, the decomposition process results in much of the carbon they absorbed being released back into the atmosphere… so really they’re more “carbon neutral.”
Every home, no matter how few or many trees are around it, is unique and requires expert analyses to design a suitable solar array. We would be happy to help you get started at Solar.com, where we provide free solar designs, a neutral place to get quotes from installers, and advice on the best way to make the switch to clean energy. See if your home is solar friendly by exploring our online, custom savings estimator, or simply give us a call at 888-454-9979.