The California Assembly unanimously passed SB 49, introduced by Senator Josh Becker, which would support the development of solar, storage and transmission projects along the state’s highways. The bill also passed the Senate and is currently awaiting approval from Gov. Gavin Newsom.
If passed, SB 49 would require California agencies to assess roadsides and right-of-way locations for clean energy projects. This is in line with the state’s ambitious clean energy goals to achieve 90% clean electricity by 2035 and 100% clean electricity by 2045.
The bill contains two main provisions. First, it provides a sales tax exemption for materials used in the construction of solar awnings over parking lots. Second, it directs the state to develop a plan to make its highway routes available for solar energy, storage and transmission infrastructure. By leasing state-controlled land along highways for solar energy, California can generate revenue from lease payments and save money on maintenance costs.
California has already made significant progress in its clean energy transition, with solar power generation increasing from 2,609 GWh to 48,950 GWh over the last 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 needs, the governor’s office estimates the need for 148 GW of additional capacity over the next 20 years. This represents 400% growth and underscores California’s commitment to being a leader in clean energy technologies.
The passage of this law is a positive step toward achieving these goals because it encourages careful siting of solar projects to maximize their benefits. A recent Environment America report, based on analysis by nonprofit The Ray, identified 4,800 acres suitable for solar projects in counties including Los Angeles, Ventura and San Diego. These sites are strategically located adjacent to infrastructure and could accommodate more than 960 MW of solar capacity and generate 1,960 GWh per year.
California’s extensive highway network, spanning more than 75,000 lane miles, provides numerous opportunities for clean energy development. By using these lands, the state can prioritize solar infrastructure while protecting farmland, habitats and other land uses.
State Senator Josh Becker emphasizes the potential of using California’s highway space for clean energy and urges the state to make better use of available roadside space. With the passage of SB 49, California is taking a significant step toward maximizing its solar potential and fulfilling its commitment to a sustainable future.