Sat. Sep 23rd, 2023
    California Assembly Passes Bill to Expand Solar Infrastructure Along Highways

    The California Assembly has unanimously approved SB 49, a bill introduced by Senator Josh Becker that aims to support the development of solar, storage, and transmission projects along the state’s highways. The legislation has also passed the Senate in a concurrence vote and is currently awaiting approval from Governor Gavin Newsom.

    If signed into law, SB 49 would require California agencies to evaluate highway sides and right-of-way locations for clean energy projects. This aligns with the state’s ambitious clean energy goals of achieving 90% clean electricity by 2035 and 100% by 2045.

    The bill includes two main provisions. First, it provides a sales tax exemption for the materials used to construct solar canopies over parking lots. Second, it mandates the state to develop a plan to make its highway rights-of-way available for solar, energy storage, and transmission infrastructure. By leasing state-controlled land along highways for solar power, California can generate revenue from lease payments and save money on maintenance costs.

    California has already made significant progress in its transition to clean energy, with solar generation increasing from 2,609 GWh to 48,950 GWh in the past decade. The state has also reduced its reliance on coal and is on track to become carbon neutral by 2045.

    To meet future clean energy demand, the Governor’s office estimates a need for an additional 148 GW of capacity within the next 20 years. This represents a 400% growth and underscores California’s commitment to being a leader in clean energy technologies.

    The bill’s passage is a positive step towards achieving these goals, as it encourages the thoughtful siting of solar projects to maximize their benefits. A recent report from Environment America, utilizing analysis from nonprofit organization The Ray, identified 4,800 acres of suitable solar project space in counties such as Los Angeles, Ventura, and San Diego. These spaces are strategically located alongside infrastructure and could accommodate over 960 MW of solar capacity, generating 1,960 GWh per year.

    California’s extensive highway network, which spans over 75,000 lane miles, presents abundant opportunities for clean energy development. By utilizing these lands, the state can prioritize solar infrastructure while also protecting farmlands, habitats, and other land uses.

    State Senator Josh Becker emphasizes the potential of utilizing California’s highway land for clean energy and urges the state to make better use of the available roadside space. With the passage of SB 49, California takes a significant stride towards maximizing its solar potential and furthering its commitment to a sustainable future.

    – SB 49
    – California Energy Commission
    – Environment America
    – The Ray