On the face of it, removing trees to install solar panels seems like a misguided idea. As with nearly everything though, technology has the answer – solar trees.
Solar trees offer many important advantages over standard trees. While they come in all the same sizes as standard trees, solar trees don’t continue to grow once planted. This is a key feature since it means no more pruning over the life of the tree. In general, across the board, maintenance is much improved with solar trees – no roots tearing up pavement, no falling leaves, no rotting trunks. Even initial installation is simpler since newly planted solar trees don’t require regular watering.
While beauty is in the eye of the beholder, for my eyes, the clean geometric lines of solar trees are far more aesthetically pleasing than the often chaotic growth patterns of standard trees.
As is so often the case, our local laws lag behind this fast-changing technological development, but that’s beginning to change. The City is working with the Newton Tree Conservancy to see how solar trees can be fit into our current city tree regulations. Proposed language for updated tree regulations are due soon.
The most far reaching change covers developers who cut down trees for new development. Under the new rules, for each tree the cut down, they will be required able to compensate with either one newly planted standard tree of similar size or two solar trees of similar size being planted on the site. Alternatively they can contribute four solar trees to be planted off-site in the new Webster Solar Woods project being planned by Boston College.