AltEnergyMag has joined forces with Cleantech Law Partners (CLP) to help our readers navigate the sometime dizzying legal and policy issues that are changing every day. CLP is a a boutique law firm that focuses on exactly these kinds of issues and works with clients everyday to help make clean energy projects a reality across the country.
As the green energy industry begins to develop more rapidly, new legal challenges are arising all the time regarding green tax issues, rebates, incentives, and the vast amount of paper work involved in putting together an alternative energy project.
Here's an example:
My neighbor has a tall tree in his backyard that shades the solar panels on the roof of my house. The shade from his tree is reducing the efficiency of my solar system and I’m loosing money every day that the sun shines. Is there any law that would guarantee my rights to the sun and force him to trim/remove his tree? If not, do you have any other practical suggestions as to what I could do to protect my investment?
There was actually a recent case (Santa Clara County v. Treanor) in California that matched the facts of your current situation almost exactly. In that case, Mr. Treanor planted some Redwood trees in his yard many years before his neighbor, Mr. Vargas, installed solar panels on the roof of his house. As the trees grew, they began to cast a large shadow on his neighbor’s property, greatly reducing the efficiency his solar system. Mr. Vargus sued Mr. Treanor, and asked the court to order the removal of the trees. He based his case on an obscure state law called the Solar Shade Control Act, which says that no person shall allow a tree or shrub to grow on their property if it casts a shadow greater than 10 percent of the collector absorption area. Because Mr. Treanor’s Redwoods were clearly in violation of the law, the court had no choice but to order the removal of the trees. The 1979 law has since been amended to exempt trees planted before solar system was installed, and also future growth of the tree.
In states where no specific law exists to protect a property owner’s rights to the sun, plaintiffs could still try to protect their solar rights by arguing that the shade from a neighbor’s tree is a public nuisance (like a pile of trash or toxic waste), which causes economic harm to the owner of the solar panels.
However, in such a situation, it would be advisable to avoid litigation altogether by looking for potential solutions that would avoid conflict. For example, you could invite your neighbor over for a coffee and ask him/her to trim the tree in such a way that it reduces the shadow on your property. Or, if that doesn’t work, perhaps you could offer to participate in the cost of relocating the tree to a far corner of your neighbors’ yard.
If you’d like to talk more about this issue, please feel free to be in touch anytime: firstname.lastname@example.orgLegal Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is for educational and information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or a legal opinion. Although we go to great lengths to make sure our information is accurate and useful, we make no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of this information. The law changes very rapidly, from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, and is subject to interpretation by courts. Legal advice must be tailored to the specific circumstance of each case and, therefore we recommend you consult a lawyer if you want professional assurance that our information, and your interpretation of it, is appropriate to your particular situation. Accordingly, nothing that you read or is provided on this web site should be used as a substitute for the advice of competent legal counsel. Transmission of the information is not intended to create, and receipt does not constitute, a lawyer-client relationship between Cleantech Law Partners, LLC,, the author(s), and you, and we will not be liable or responsible to you for any claim, loss, injury, liability, or damages related to your use of this site or any site linked to this site.
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