California State Government Unanimously Votes to Install Solar Equipment Along Highways

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California is taking the necessary steps towards the more widespread placement of solar power infrastructure as its Assembly unanimously passed a new law that will lead to an increase of such equipment along state highways. The vote resulted in 79-0 in favor of expanded infrastructural placement.

Prior to being put to the vote, California Senate Bill (SB) 49 underwent several amendments with the Assembly’s Appropriations Committee which deleted a provision meant to create a strategic plan for the placement of solar equipment by the highways. Despite this, it is expected that the bill will speed up California’s push towards greater, if not total, dependence on renewable power.

Sponsored by Environment California and written by Senator Josh Becker, SB49 mandates agencies of the state government to study the feasibility of placing relevant infrastructure for generating, storing, and transmitting solar power along major highways in order to meet its target of using solar and other renewables to generate up to 90% of the state’s total energy requirement by 2035, and to become its’ main source of energy by 2045.

Under SB 49, a process will also be set in place to allow relevant entities to build and eventually operate such infrastructure which will be placed within the state’s rights of way. 

Currently there are over 52,000 lane miles in the California highway system along with over 23,000 lane miles of federal roadways. Under SB49, a committee will conduct an evaluation to identify potential solar infrastructure sites along these roads. Based on current findings, the combined roadways in Los Angeles, San Diego, and Ventura stand to have a total capacity of around one gigawatt (1GW) – enough to power up to 270,000 homes within these jurisdictions.

Aside from driving the state’s clean energy goals, it is highly possible that SB49 may also increase California’s total revenue in terms of leases, decreased power maintenance costs, as well as the sale of generated power.