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UC Davis swaps real trees for solar structure

Bye Bye Birdies--to make room for two large solar car ports, UC Davis needs to cut down a few dozen pear trees.

Envision Solar
An Envision Solar carport.

It's one of those rare instances where cutting down trees is necessary to reduce carbon emissions. To make way for two solar car ports, the University of California at Davis first needs to remove the 38 pear trees already planted in the parking lot.

The solar car ports are part of seven large solar installations the University is installing on its property. The majority of the projects will be installed on building rooftops, but Lot 1 on the campus will receive two large solar car ports. Made up of more than 1,200 solar panels, the car port structures are connected to the campus's electrical system. With a 289 kilowatt capacity, the carports are the largest of the planned solar installations, and are expected to produce 14,000 kilowatt-hours in the first year.

But before the car ports can go up, a few dozen trees must come down. The University describes the 38 pear trees it is removing as ornamental, and says that solar car structures will provide more shade than the trees they are replacing. The zero-emissions energy created from the solar car ports will offset some of the University's draw from local power grids, lowering its carbon footprint. In total, the seven solar projects are expected to reduce the University's carbon footprint by approximately 800 metric tons each year. A mature tree absorbs about 48 pounds of carbon each year. While the carbon calculus works in the solar project's favor, I hope that UC Davis decides to plant more trees to make up for the loss of visual green space.

Source: UC Davis Dateline