In sunny Arizona, where a home’s exposed siding can exceed 180 degrees, an electric co-op’s members have it made in the shade with a tree program that could trim their electric bills by as much as 20%.

“Planting shade trees results in energy savings and reduces overall demand, especially during the hot desert summers,” said Rick Campos, chief operating officer of Mohave Electric Cooperative.

Through its “Operation Cool Shade” initiative, the Bullhead City co-op offers leafy, desert-adapted trees at deep discounts for members to plant strategically to keep direct sunlight off their homes.

Shading walls, windows and roofs helps reduce members’ power consumption and summer wear and tear on their air conditioning units.

“The less energy needed to cool a home results in financial savings,” said Steve Bouman, energy management specialist at the 41,000-meter co-op. “Planting shade trees in the right location can reduce cooling costs by up to 20 percent.”

Mohave Electric officials discuss avoiding power lines and other safety issues with members when they come to get their tree. The co-op also partners with the Mohave Master Gardeners, who give members tree-growing tips.

The co-op is selling 1,800 trees at just $9 each between Sept. 11 and 14. Members may buy up to four trees and get a free LED lightbulb with each tree purchase. Tree varietals include rosewood, Chilean mesquite, willow acacia and desert willow, all of which grow in full sun and require little water.

On tree delivery day in November, about 150 volunteers—many from various student clubs and local high school athletic teams—will join MEC to unload two 18-wheelers and carry the trees to members’ vehicles.

“There are varied reasons for the start and continuation of Operation Cool Shade, but the root of its existence lies in Mohave Electric Cooperative’s commitment to community,” said Campos.

MEC has run the program since 2002, helping get 34,000 desert shade trees planted over 17 years. The initiative is partially funded through Mohave Electric Cooperative’s energy efficiency program.