ERUUF has had solar panels for six months now and we’ve learned a lot in this time. The good news is that we have seen a reduction in the energy bill and the system is working well. However, it’s becoming clear that tree shading issues were significantly underestimated by our contractor, and the solar project is now experiencing significantly lower than optimal solar output. In the winter months there is an almost 50% reduction in solar production due to shading, though less in the summer due to sun position, with an annual loss of 30-35% kilowatt hours or about $3,000 per year. This outcome will increase over time as the trees grow.
This brings us to a choice point. In order to live into our ongoing sustainability commitment (read more about ERUUF’s Green Sanctuary Initiative) and to be good stewards of the large solar project (and all the resources it took to build it), we will need to find ways to address the shading issue, both for today and in future years as the trees/shade between the CARE building and the walkway continue to grow.
The Coordinating Team, Garden Team, Earth Justice, Buildings and Grounds, RE, ERUUF staff, Family Preschool and tree experts have all been brought into the conversation. A number of ideas and options have been discussed, all of which have pluses and minuses. The most viable solution involves replacing four large trees with lower growing new trees that grow to a height that does not create future shading issues. While this will create a change, the redesign also opens other opportunities for uses of the area.
Before making a decision, the Coordinating Team would like to hear what our members think about this. And so we invite you to join us to share your thoughts at a special breakout room during zoom Coffee Hour on March 14.
This is one significant way that we can live our values and principles as we help create a sustainable, low carbon future together.