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Architect says: Solar need not mean Tree Removal

Solar & Trees, Perfect Together

Solar and TREES - Page_1The following letter was sent to the City Council as well as to the Davisite.

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.

Solar and TREES - Page_2However, 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


Alan Miller

Are possible future car fires enough of a 'thing' as to be worth mentioning? I mean, I supposing a meteorite may be slowed by the solar panels and save some parkers life too.

But seriously folks, what a concept - keep the trees and add even more solar panels. One has to wonder about those who designed Plan Zero, Are they not good at their jobs? Did they grow up with an irrational fear of trees? Do they lay awake at night terrified at the thought of imperfect asphalt slightly cracked by the naturally evil tree root?

I have a strange urge to mention Angela Davis' affiliation with the communist party, but maybe I just need more coffee.

Ron O

Would like to know any downsides to this proposal, such as increased maintenance of the panels (due to shedding of leaves/branches from the trees), more difficulty accessing the panels, more difficulty trimming the trees, reduced sunlight reaching the panels during different periods of the day, etc.

Regarding installing panels on other, undeveloped nearby/adjacent sites - has anyone asked Sutter if there are future plans for those sites? Same question would apply regarding planting/moving trees to those sites.

We have also not heard exactly why Sutter (apparently) doesn't want to place the panels on their roof. Or for that matter, why not put solar panels on both the roof AND parking lot - assuming the idea is to maximize solar panel usage?

Why did Sutter's proposal even arise in the first place? Why not just "do nothing" regarding the parking lot?

If there weren't already medium-sized trees shading the lot, Sutter's proposal would likely be a complete non-issue.

Roberta L. Millstein

I don't know if this is a good design or not, but I would like to hear a discussion of pros and cons. It is certainly intriguing and appealing on its face. The fact that we're having these conversations now points to how badly the City screwed up this process. The issue of solar panels and trees should have gone to the Natural Resources Commission and Tree Commission at the outset. If only we had a group who was supposed to be improving city processes? Oh wait, we do. The councilmembers assigned to it de-fanged it and moved on. Nothing to see here, only perfect city processes.

But not too late to fix this one, I hope. Send it to the NRC and TC before Council makes a final decision.

Todd Edelman

How do people feel when they park their cars under solar panels at Vets/DHS, at Woodland Community College, at St. James?

Sure, it's shaded, but sterile. Aside from convenience - at the expense of a lot of other things - the only redeeming thing about parking lots is any trees which they are lucky to have.

And birds! Yes, birds... they're singing for other birds, but they're tweeting for you... wishing you a happy journey of health to and from Sutter and Davis Community Clinic. Certainly they would certainly prefer you fly there sustainably... or take the bus or bike, and for for the parking lots to be more compact. But they love you and want to welcome you to Sutter!

They miss their trees a few feet to the west, destroyed by Taormino. He's not their friend. But you can be.

Ron O

Todd: "And birds! Yes, birds... they're singing for other birds, but they're tweeting for you..."

And, they're making the paint on my parked vehicle less "sustainable".

Todd: "Sure, it's shaded, but sterile."

Perfect, for a parking lot.

(Semi-tongue-in-cheek response.)

George Galamba

I am glad that there are so many alternatives to putting the Sutter solar panels in the parking lot. So far I have read, put them on the roof, put them in the north lot, put them in the back 40 (30?), put them north of the back 40 under the water tower, now put them in the parking lot in a different configuration. My solution is that they should put them in Arizona, which gets more sunlight, or even better yet, put them just south of Kampala in Uganda on the equator where they will get 12 hours of daylight year round. Unfortunately, I missed the memo where Sutter was asking the residents of Davis to tell them how to run their hospital.
On a more sober note, I am concerned that future businesses that locate in Davis won't plant trees at all when they see the hell they will have to go through if they feel they need to make future changes.

Roberta L. Millstein

George, I guess you also missed the memo where the City Council has to approve the proposed changes to the parking lot, and where the City Council is supposed to answer to the citizens who elected it.

Bob Milbrodt

I think the city "leadership" also missed that memo.

Roberta L. Millstein

Bob, I think you’re right. Also staff.

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