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Tree protection

The US Department of energy, on its web site at www.sustainable.doe.gov, is showcasing a solar energy access ordinance passed by a municipality in 1980 which purports to restrict the right to maintain a tree which will obstruct access to solar energy on nearby property. The purpose is to encourage the use of solar energy. However, the ordinance totally fails to consider the utility of trees in protecting the environment, both with respect to saving energy and with respect to the climatic and clean air advantages of increasing the tree population. It ignores the fact that the tree which prevents one home from obtaining solar heat shades another and reduces or eliminates the need for air conditioning, and may also serve as a windbreak reducing the need for winter heating. This ordinance is a bad idea which nobody should copy. Why doesnt EPA knock on DOEs door and wise them up?
tree protection vs. solar access

Zoning to protect present and future solar access is an important planning consideration that not enough municipalities consider. While it is difficult to effectively control vegetation through by-laws etc., there should be room to consider the difference between deciduous and coniferous trees, and where each are permitted. Properly placed, each of these contribute positively to the urban environment.

Your posting does not indicate the type of tree, and I would submit that deciduous trees are among nature's best solar screens - as you said, providing cooling and air cleansing during summer, and allowing for maximum solar access during the winter. This cannot be said for coniferous trees and, therefore, some form of control may be warranted if solar access is threatened. Coniferous trees, however, can contribute positively during the winter when they act as windbreaks thereby reducing the need for heating.

I would appreciate hearing of examples (i.e. city names) where solar zoning techniques work.

Ralph Bouwmeester, P. Eng.

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