Energy Efficiency

The debate over cutting down trees to improve solar panel energy production heats up - but it doesn't have to be that way!

3 Ways To Overcome The Battle Between Solar Energy and Trees

When we talked about saving the earth a few years ago, we discussed planting more trees and not cutting down trees. It is amazing how this has shifted to the different dynamics of trying to reduce the carbon footprints today.

All initiatives and debates about protecting the environment are centered on cutting down our carbon footprints and it is almost hilarious that the two top ways of doing so are at conflict. The practice of planting trees and the innovation that is solar energy have seen their paths cross not once or twice but several times in communities and even in the courtrooms.

What about the carbon footprints?

Battle Between Solar Energy And TreesBefore analyzing the flesh of this debate, a simple understanding of the carbon footprint theory is imperative. Simply put, the activities of humans in the domestic or corporate arena result directly or indirectly in the production of greenhouse gases, which are cited as the primary cause of global warming and adverse changes in our climate. Whether it is the case of a company that has a factory that releases CO2 into the air or the common folk using fuel which destroys the environment; whether big or small, we all have carbon footprints to erase.

Erasing the carbon

Consumers are encouraged by government agencies and by appliance manufacturers to buy energy efficient appliances to reduce their carbon footprint. Actually, the best way any individual can reduce their carbon footprints is through planting trees simply because trees consume carbon dioxide from the air.

The debate

This traditional and long practiced method of planting trees to save mother earth is facing a major challenge and it is due to the fact that it is blocking the path for the solar panels. A number of cases have been filed in courts with the plaintiff complaining of the neighbor’s tall tree shading the sunlight and hence preventing the efficiency of the newly installed and costly solar panels. Hence, the debate emerges – should the tree be cut down to pave the way for the cleanest energy source, solar power?

Interestingly, the sun-powered panels have won a majority of the cases based on one line of defense. Solar panels are more effective when it comes to saving the environment.

Solar panels are argued to prevent or rather remove the carbon emission for good. They remove fossil fuel usage permanently. Trees on the other hand, consume the carbon during their lifetime and when they are to be disposed, return a percentage of the carbon back to the environment one way or another. In addition, if the efficiency of solar panels versus the tree (in a year) in removing carbon were to be analyzed, the solar panels emerge at the top with over 10% higher in efficiency.

Easing the heat of the debate

Does this mean that this is a curtain call for the tree planting campaign? On the contrary, usage of both methods (solar panels and tree planting) should increase (maybe not in equal measure) but the use of one should not be the demise of another. Here are 3 ways one can ensure they use both methods without getting into a conflict. Although simple measures, they will contribute to the reduction of the number of trees being cut, due to solar panels.

1.  Plant trees away from the panels

The bone of contention is those tall trees blocking the panels, limiting their intake of the precious sunlight. The simple thing to do would be to plant trees away from the panels but given that for both, the best location is the direction with maximum sunlight, this poses quite a challenge. The solution to this problem is to it have a form of agreement with your neighbor. You can come to an amicable understanding that promotes both, such as planting short trees and positioning the panels in a vantage position.

2.  Get panels as a community

Invest to get the solar panels as a community. Solar gardens or community solar panels are highly beneficial to all. They give you a chance to chip in to the clean energy source, provide a chance to earn extra income, and you choose a location of little conflict to all. They also cut down on the initial investment of installing solar panels.

3.  The sensibility of the debate

It matters whether the panels are of actual use. In an area where there is little sunlight, there is no ROI on installing the panels and the trees would do better for the environment. Where the sun is a great resource, then definitely, the panels come in as a huge advantage.

Jamie Kirk is a freelance writer, who loves keeping the environment clean and green. In his articles, he suggests the use of pv solar cells for the generation of electricity from solar energy.

Image via Flickr: Walmart Stores

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