Release: Three SoCal counties could power 270,000+ total homes annually with solar infrastructure along highways

Media Contacts
Steven King

Clean Energy Advocate, Environment California Research & Policy Center

Analysis of Los Angeles, Ventura, San Diego counties finds 4,800 untapped acres of suitable roadside space for panels

LOS ANGELES — Together, the counties of Los Angeles, Ventura and San Diego have more than 4,800 acres of suitable space to develop solar power alongside highways, which could potentially accommodate up to 960 MW of clean energy capacity and power more than 270,000 homes annually, according to a new report by Environment California Research & Policy Center. The report, Solar power alongside California’s highways, highlights new analysis by The Ray, a Georgia-based nonprofit that collaborates with state transportation departments to analyze solar energy opportunities. 

“This summer’s barrage of record-breaking temperatures is an urgent reminder that we must accelerate our transition to clean energy, including solar power, which cleans up our air and cuts global-warming climate pollution,” said Steven King, Environment California Research & Policy Center’s clean energy advocate. “California should lead the way in deploying solar in already-developed areas such as alongside highways. Let’s maximize the productivity of our sprawling concrete jungle and drive toward a future powered by roadside solar.”

Although California has not yet put solar panels along highways, they are a proven clean energy solution encouraged by the federal government and already deployed in other states, including Georgia and Maine. In 2021, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) issued guidance to states encouraging renewable energy generation within rights-of-way. The FHWA cited many benefits, including reducing pollution, creating green jobs, promoting energy security and creating potential state revenue sources. In 2022, the Biden Administration called this idea a “net-zero game changer” that can help the country meet its climate goals.

“The Ray has a history of success assisting states in transforming underutilized space along highway roadsides into productive, clean energy resources, and this analysis displays that California would benefit immensely from these changes,” said David Peters, The Ray‘s Western Regional Manager. “California can utilize the results of our solar analysis tool to prioritize the most promising spaces for solar panels in the state’s vast rights-of-way, and generate a wealth of clean electricity in the process.”

While California has long been a leader in deploying renewable energy, and particularly solar power, the state still needs to triple the amount of solar power capacity it builds to meet its 100% clean energy requirement, according to the California Energy Commission. There are often land use and conservation-related conflicts over the best places to site solar infrastructure. Putting solar panels alongside already-developed highways reduces the need for large utility-scale projects that can harm environmentally sensitive areas such as California’s deserts.

“This new analysis makes a strong case for utilizing land along California’s highways to generate clean energy,” said state Sen. Josh Becker. “If just three counties have this much solar potential alongside their highways, imagine our entire state’s potential. Let’s make better use of the available roadside land at our disposal.”

Environment California and The Ray will host a webinar to release the report’s findings on Thursday, August 31 at 11:00 a.m. PT / 2:00p.m. ET. Speakers will include Sen. Becker, King and Peters. The Zoom link for the webinar is here.