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