These past few weeks have made it clear to almost everyone that we have a problem on earth. The climate is different, and we are all heating up. Trees help reduce the “island heat effect” in and around cities. When trees are in a parking area the temperature of the parking area is 10 to 20 degrees cooler. They help shade us, our cars and more importantly the pavement so that it does not reflect the heat.
Can solar panels and trees co-exist on the same site? Well, the short answer is yes. Of course, if your house in always in shade and you planned to put the solar panels on your roof you will not get enough power from the solar panels to pay for themselves in a lifetime. However, the standard philosophy that solar panels and trees cannot be placed near each other is nonsense.
Here in Davis we have before us a prime example. Sutter Hospital Phase 2 Project’s consultant proposes removing all the trees in the parking lot so that solar panels can be placed above the parked cars. City Council will be voting on an Appeal by Sutter Hospital from the approved City plan to permit the trees to be removed and NOT relocated as the City had required them to do so in its approval.
However, there is a solution that will save the trees AND provide even more solar panels. The solar panels can span over the driveways in the parking lot thereby allowing the trees to remain on the island median between the parked cars. The trees would be far enough away from the solar panels so as not to shade them. The shade from the trees will still shade some of the cars, and the solar panels will shade some of the cars as well. The accompanying drawing shows where the solar panels can be located, a sketch comparing our recommendation to the Sutter Hospital consultant’s approved plan and a sectional drawing showing the shading of the trees and solar panels on the cars. This recommended plan also protects the solar panels from possible future car fires in the parking spaces.
Marcus Marino, AIA, NCARB