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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,


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?


Join The Conversation
angelfromlsu angelfromlsu 9 years
I'm too upset to even respond to this. I hope a tree branch falls on their solar panel.
remedios remedios 9 years
chiefdishwasher - I did. Wow. 9 down with two minutes to go and won in OT. Memphis fell apart though.
LadyAngel89 LadyAngel89 9 years
The neighbors installed the panels just to get rid of the trees! If I break my own leg on purpose just to get disability... besides being fraudulent and unethical, maybe I should take it to court anyway. BLAH!
chiefdishwasher chiefdishwasher 9 years
Is this Kansas? (Did you see that comeback?) Put the wood in a stove and cause more pollution. Hey, the trees were there first. It is like complaining about an airport or freeway noise when they have have there for decades before you moved in.
Schaianne Schaianne 9 years
I absolutely endorse using solar panels - but if your neighbor has trees that will interfere - PUT THEM SOMEWHERE ELSE. I mean, really. This is another form of harrassment and it is ridiculous that the homeowners are being forced to trim/remove their trees. I had to live w/o satellite where I used to live because of someone else's trees - I would never have dreamed of getting them to cut them down! Jeesh. And yes, juju, you're right - great use of taxpayer's money!
juju4 juju4 9 years
I am so glad that tax payer dollars are going towards such a frivolous law suit.
remedios remedios 9 years
good point. And everyone loves a fireplace.
UnDave35 UnDave35 9 years
Well, if we do, we'll have plenty of firewood to fuel the power plants and fireplaces to keep us warm. :)
remedios remedios 9 years
But if we cut down all trees, then we'll have to start complaining about solar panels and cut all those down too.
UnDave35 UnDave35 9 years
I say we shoulod just cut down all the trees! That way no one can complain about them being in the way of the solar panels.
LibertySugar LibertySugar 9 years
Ha raciccarone!
raciccarone raciccarone 9 years
This is what I like to call The Perfect Storm of Stupidity.
hypnoticmix hypnoticmix 9 years
I say move the panels and run a line to the house. WTF!
remedios remedios 9 years
Nothing is absolute, including property rights. This is not the first time that's been held, and won't be the last. As to private property, this is the problem - it's a conflict of two separate property interests. One is entitled to the use and enjoyment of her property free from any unreasonable interference. If one's enjoyment of her property interests prevents another from enjoyment of his property interests, it's not a simple answer. Unfortunately, we don't have a way of saying - you can keep your trees so long as you keep your shade too. Stop putting your shade on my property. I agree with some of the apprehensions expressed, that the trees were there before the solar panels. I have a problem if someone introduced the problem himself. I'm not saying I have an answer, just that it's not a simple question. Interestingly, I imagine this was looking at two conflicting public interest too - preservation of redwoods v. renewable energy.
cine_lover cine_lover 9 years
"SF wants to secede from the US" If only! :pray:
UnDave35 UnDave35 9 years
The west coast is full of news today. SF wants to secede from the US, and now northern CA is in favor of cutting down trees? Isn't that counter intuitive to the green movement?
mymellowman mymellowman 9 years
Down with the trees! I think it is completely absurd that some people would allow trees to get in the way of someone's right to choose solar power to go green!
Shopaholichunny Shopaholichunny 9 years
This story deserves a BIG OL' :OY: :P
KrisSugar KrisSugar 9 years
you'd think the trees would keep things pretty cool in those houses, and it's not like Texas where you need A/C in December. I wonder if they had any idea how much their energy consumption would be with/without the trees. sorry about not being able to grow your own corn, but it doesn't seem like the end of the world. oh well. sometimes I think I have fussy neighbors!
syako syako 9 years
amen cine! private freakin property. if you don't like it move to a place in the desert where the only trees are cacti.
cine_lover cine_lover 9 years
The solar panel people are idiots. Redwoods are a dying breed of tree, that take centuries to grow. They are quite beautiful and majestic. Oh, and whatever happened to private property?
SussLW SussLW 9 years
Definitely agree with all of you and am on the side of the tree lovers.
LibertySugar LibertySugar 9 years
I agree it's all crazy. But, something to think about — the trees weren't as big when they bought the house. So the amount of shade has increased!
KrisSugar KrisSugar 9 years
The trees were there before the solar panels, and long before either neighbor's house was even built, I am certain. How incredibly silly. We don't like your trees, so we're going to install solar panels and call a law on you to cut them down. How "shady" is that?
Shopaholichunny Shopaholichunny 9 years
I agree w/ MM
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