Shady Justice? Court Says Blocking Solar Panels Is Illegal


In an epic showdown of redwood trees and solar panels, two environmentally-conscious families from Northern California met in criminal court for a battle of the shade. One electric car-owning family complained that their Prius-driving neighbors had redwood trees that were preventing the sun from hitting their solar panels. This is not an episode of South Park, but an actual proceeding in California criminal court.

The solar panels triumphed, and the convicted tree neighbors were forced to significantly trim decade-old redwoods. Under the Solar Shade Act, owners can be fined up to $1,000 a day for trees that impede solar panels. To see which came first, the solar panels or the shade, read more.

While this appears to be a case unique to California, typical neighbor issues were at play. Over the years, shade from their neighbor's growing trees, prevented the solar family from enjoying their hot tub or growing corn in the backyard. Seeking refuge in the solar law, the family installed the panels, informed the neighbors of the law, and offered to remove and replace the trees. The tree owners didn't want to touch the trees that were there first, so they all ended up in court.

California lawmakers recognize the dilemma. State Senator Joe Simitian has introduced a bill that will allow trees to grow if they were planted before the installation of solar panels.

Which neighbor do you find more sympathetic — the tree huggers or the tree haters?

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