He proposes “solar safe zones” on parcels, which would restrict “height on plant material to under 15 feet in a defined area (based on parcel and building orientation).” This doesn’t mean a property couldn’t have large trees, as well. As he writes in his paper, “Trees and Solar Power: Coexisiting in an Urban Forest Near You”: “a large tree to the west of a structure … has a smaller chance of shading a PV array on the average residential roof between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.”
For neighborhoods, Staley proposes finely targeted restrictions. For instance: “based on the street direction, height of trees in the Right-Of-Way (ROW) is restricted on the north side of E-W running streets to a height based on the setback distance and dwelling roof height (taller trees in ROW in front of two-story, shorter in front of one-story).”
Ultimately, the idea is for those who are designing the neighborhoods and commercial developments of the future to become mindful of an important new element to factor into the equation: Rooftops are more than just protection from the elements, they are potential power plants.
“The arboriculture industry is poised to partner with the solar industry to generate clean energy by contributing expertise when recommending best practices for policy and maintenance,” Staley writes. “The benefits of strategically increasing tree canopy in built environments – increased energy savings from shade, increased solar power generation, reduced stormwater peak flows, increased aesthetics and improved environmental health – far outweigh the costs and pay dividends many times over.”