Will Solar Panels Work If I Have A Lot Of Trees?

So you have a lot of trees on your property. You may think that this makes it impossible to install solar panels.

Will the shade from your trees block the solar panels from producing energy? Will branches and leaves fall from the trees and damage your solar panels? Today, we’re answering all your questions about whether or not solar panels will work if you have a lot of trees.

solar panels work with trees

Solar Panels and Trees Don’t Always Get Along

Your solar panels are most efficient when they have direct access to sunlight. Ideally, your solar panels will be placed in a location where they receive the maximum amount of sunlight throughout the day, from sunrise to sunset.

Unfortunately for some homeowners, trees and solar panels don’t get along. Trees can block sunlight from hitting your solar panels, which can substantially reduce their performance and energy production.

Here’s the good news: you don’t need to clear-cut your property to start using solar panels. In most cases, you can get away with removing a few branches or trimming your trees. If you live on a small property with a limited amount of exposed roof, however, then you may need to remove one or two whole trees.

Does Removing a Tree Negate the Environmental Benefits of Solar Energy?

Some people believe that removing trees to create solar energy is a bad tradeoff for the environment. They believe it creates a net negative impact. After all, trees remove carbon dioxide from the environment by storing CO2, and we emit CO2 when manufacturing solar panels.

In reality, solar energy production has a net positive benefit on the environment even when you need to remove trees to install your solar panels.

Energy Sage actually did the math on this one. They cited data from the US government showing that one tree stores 0.5 metric tons of CO2 over its lifetime. Manufacturing a 5 kW solar panel system, on the other hand, produces 10 metric tons of CO2. That means when you remove one tree from your property and replace it with one solar panel, your net negative impact on the environment is 10.5 metric tons of CO2 emissions.

In other words, for the removal of one tree to make sense (environmentally speaking), the net CO2 reduction from that solar panel must exceed 10.5 metric tons.

Now let’s look at the positive effects of solar panels. Panels generate 6,000 kWh of electricity per year for 25 years. Over a lifetime, that means a panel generates over 150,000 kWh of free electricity, eliminating 103 metric tons of CO2 that would have been generated from traditional (non-renewable) energy sources.

When you cut down a tree to install a solar panel, you’re emitting the equivalent of 10.5 tons of carbon dioxide. However, you’re eliminating the equivalent of 103 metric tons of carbon dioxide over a 25 year lifespan. That gives you a net positive impact of 92.5 metric tons of CO2 eliminated from the environment, which is equivalent to 180 trees planted.

Thanks to Energy Sage for doing the numbers on that one.

Other Things to Consider When Installing Solar Panels on a Shaded Property

So you live on a wooded property. Solar panels can still work perfectly fine. Here are some things to consider when installing solar panels in a shaded environment:

You Can Cut Down or Trim Trees

As we found above, cutting down a tree to install a solar panel leads to a net positive impact on the environment. Of course, many homeowners can get away with simply trimming the tree – they don’t need to totally remove the tree, which means you can boost your net positive environmental impact even higher.

Some people have ignored solar energy because they live in a heavily wooded property. However, with a few small adjustments, you can ensure your solar panels are exposed to maximum sunlight throughout the year – you might not even notice the disappearance of a small tree or branch.

Solar Panels Are More Efficient than Ever Before

Solar panels function best when they’re exposed to unobstructed sunlight all day long, from sunrise to sunset. In reality, however, few places offer ideal solar panel conditions.

Thanks to modern solar panel technology, solar panels can still be efficient when they’re in sub-optimal conditions. A modern solar panel may produce more energy from 4 hours of direct sunlight than an old solar panel would produce from 12 hours of direct sunlight.

Even Wooded Properties Receive Sunlight for Parts of the Day

Obviously, the sun doesn’t stay in the same spot all day, all year round. It moves throughout the sky during the day and rotates to the north or south, depending on the season. You might have a tree in a corner of your yard that blocks sunlight from hitting your panels in December and January, but doesn’t obstruct the panel throughout the rest of the year.

Trees Aren’t Leafy All Year Round

Another thing to consider is that trees can change their cover throughout the year. Leaves fall off during the colder months. That means your solar panels might be perfectly effective throughout half of the year, while partially effective throughout the spring and summer when the tree is in full bloom.

Don’t Forget to Remove Branches and Leaves from Solar Panels

Solar panels are designed to resist environmental damage. Unless a large tree falls onto your roof, it’s unlikely your solar panels are going to be damaged by a minor windstorm. The only real “maintenance” you need to do, as a solar panel owner, is to remove trees, branches, and leaves from your solar panels periodically. This ensures your panels are always operating at maximum efficiency.

Talk to a Solar Panel Contractor to Determine your Best Option

Ultimately, solar panel installation companies have worked with all types of properties – including properties surrounded by trees. They know how to maximize the efficiency of your solar panels. They’ll be able to determine if you should cut down trees, trim trees, or just leave them there. Request a free estimate and see what your local solar panel company says about your tree situation.

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