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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Trees and solar panels

Solar panels are expensive enough that it's only logical to get as much power out of them as possible. One problem about living out here in the woods . . . well, it's all those woods. There are trees everywhere.

To get any sort of decent sun, my solar panels are located at the far north side of my property on top of a tall pole. Even there, a red cedar and a spruce had to be cut. We don't like to cut down trees. Cutting them down is quick, but growing them is slow. Always better to think twice before firing up the chainsaw.

As the seasons change and the sun changes position in the sky, the potential tree obstructions shift. In the high summer, I've got to make sure the branches from some giant hemlocks next to the panels don't block the view. Quite a few of their branches were cut back a couple years ago. Doesn't do the main part of the tree much harm, but I make sure to cut only those branches that are shading the panels.

The summer sun is sometimes blocked by a small group of maples and birches near my driveway. I keep them trimmed back, but don't worry about it as much. In the summer, there's plenty of sun all day, and in the winter, the leaves have fallen from the trees. The bare branches block very little.

As the sun sinks lower to the horizon as the days get shorter, hemlocks on the south side of the house begin to shade the panels. They could be cut down and I'd get more sun in the winter. It'd probably cost more energy in the long run. As it is, in large part due to those trees, the house doesn't need air conditioning in the summer. In the winter, those same trees shield the house from cold wind off the lake. Cutting them down would gain a bit more solar electricity, but cost in other ways.

Then there's the huge entertainment value of the squirrels and birds that live on those trees. That's worth something too.

As long as can get enough power most of the time, I can live with a bit of occasional tree shading. Life is full of compromises.

If I didn't want trees, I wouldn't be Sixbears in the Woods.

-Sixbears

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