Can Trees and Solar Panels Co-exist?

We Californians like our trees. They shade our city streets, increasing property values. They dress up our suburban gardens and can provide a place for our children to swing and climb. In our wild land areas they provide refuge for birds and wildlife, and can hold steep banks in place. Sometimes they are small specimen trees, friendly in size and manner. Or they can be grand, majestic trees inspiring awe.

majestic oak tree

We Californians also like solar technology and more and more solar panels are springing up on roofs throughout the state.

solar panels and trees

And here enters the problem: What happens when one person's tree shades the solar panels on a neighbor's roof?

In 1978 California enacted the Solar Shade Control Act. This Act limits the amount of shade acceptable on solar collectors during the hours when the most intense solar activity occurs. It also gives guidance, depending on whether the tree or the solar panels were in place first.

Generally speaking, if a tree was in place before the solar panels were installed, the tree is likely to be OK. However, if the solar panels were there first, the tree owner might be forced to trim back or remove the tree.

Trees grow; shade patterns change. No two cases are identical. Neighbors should discuss the issue with one another, and seek legal advice before agreeing to any settlement.


--- Come for a visit; Stay for a lifetime!

Lottie Kendall, Realtor®


CA DRE#10215160; 650-465-4547

Peninsula Living Business Page



Comment balloon 13 commentsLottie Kendall • September 11 2015 12:52PM



I would never, ever take down a tree..surely there are other solutions.  As we grow to a more sustainable society, problems like these arise, and solutions will come to...Nice post, something to keep in mind and follow.  A

Posted by Ron and Alexandra Seigel, Luxury Real Estate Branding, Marketing & Strategy (Napa Consultants) almost 5 years ago

Lottie if the tree is large enough to block the sun, it is mostly it was there before the solar panels.  So I think the trees will win out.

Posted by George Souto, Your Connecticut Mortgage Expert (George Souto NMLS #65149 FHA, CHFA, VA Mortgages) almost 5 years ago

Trying to live green by removing trees because of too much shade seems counter-intuitive to the cause. I can see some hairy situations arising from this. 

Posted by Nicole Doty - Gilbert Real Estate Expert, Broker/Owner of Zion Realty (Zion Realty) almost 5 years ago

I try and not have my home that close to a tree in the first place for the shade to even matter, or at least not tall ones. Of course I live in Florida, so I'm wary of hurricanes trying to knock them on my home lol. 

Posted by Captain Wayne - Rowlett Real Estate School, Rowlett Real Estate School / Owner and Instructor (REcampus Fully Accredited Florida ONLINE & Classroom Training in Destin, Pensacola Florida) almost 5 years ago

Lottie, We sure are seeing more solar panels and more 20 leases that go with them. We know good fences make good neighbors.

Now, about those trees ....

Posted by Kathleen Daniels, San Jose Homes for Sale-Probate & Trust Specialist (KD Realty - 408.972.1822) almost 5 years ago

I am learning something here Lottie, solar panels are not my area of expertise. I think if the tree was there for 30 or 40 years then the company installing the panels would have put them in a different spot?

Posted by Noah Seidenberg, Chicagoland and Suburbs (800) 858-7917 (Coldwell Banker) almost 5 years ago

Lottie Kendall - I had no idea on this law on trees and solar panels.  Great information to know!

Posted by Laura Allen, Lake Tahoe - Truckee Real Estate for Sale, Tahoe Real Estate Agent Helping Buyers and Sellers (Coldwell Banker, Tahoe City, CA (530) 414-1260) almost 5 years ago

Sounds like the tree would win most of the time if it is big enough to shade out a roof, and I am glad the tree wins and stays. Have a great weekend!

Posted by Stefan Winter, Owner - Winter Group & Real Estate Web Tech (Real Estate in IL & NV | Owner of Real Estate Web Tech | Daily Vlogger) almost 5 years ago

Thank you for the post. I have not sold any homes with solar panels.

Posted by Gita Bantwal, REALTOR,ABR,CRS,SRES,GRI - Bucks County & Philadel (RE/MAX Centre Realtors) almost 5 years ago


Both trees and solar panels have a positive impact on our energy for or homes.

Good luck and success.

Lou Ludwig

Posted by Lou Ludwig, Designations Earned CRB, CRS, CIPS, GRI, SRES, TRC (Ludwig & Associates) almost 5 years ago

Anyone thinking about solar panels needs to know more than just what advertisers advertise on national T.V. There are local ordinances too. I can tell you've done your homework. Prospective buyers and Sellers would be wise to consult with you as I know you to be the local expert in this department with many excellent resources too.

Posted by Patricia Feager, MBA, CRS, GRI,MRP, Selling Homes Changing Lives (DFW FINE PROPERTIES) almost 5 years ago

WOW... I think I would have an issue with the law. I love trees and yet support solar panels.  I have to admit I do not know enough about solar panels and did not realize that this was an issue.

Posted by Sussie Sutton, David Tracy Real Estate for Buyers & Sellers (David Tracy Real Estate) almost 5 years ago

 Good Sunday morning Lottie. I am not one for taking down trees either. However, I will be taking down a chestnut tree in the backyard. It is just gotten to be too messy.

Posted by TeamCHI - Complete Home Inspections, Inc., Home Inspectons - Nashville, TN area - 615.661.029 (Complete Home Inspections, Inc.) almost 5 years ago