Release: Gov. Newsom signs bill to ‘go solar’ along California’s highways

Media Contacts

SB 49 (Becker) will unlock clean energy potential of California’s abundant roadside land

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Gov. Gavin Newsom on Saturday signed legislation to encourage solar power infrastructure along California’s highways. Environment California sponsored SB 49, which was authored by Sen. Josh Becker.

“Gov. Newsom is asserting California’s clean energy leadership by opening up some of the most promising, yet underutilized, areas for solar: land next to our highways,” said Laura Deehan, Environment California’s state director. “California can now drive faster toward a future powered by clean energy with the help of solar along roadsides.”

SB 49 would direct state agencies to evaluate potential for solar energy, battery storage and transmission infrastructure alongside highways to help California meet its clean energy targets — generating 90% of the state’s power by 2035 and 100% by 2045. The bill will establish a process for entities to operate and build this renewable energy infrastructure within state-owned rights-of-way.

“California is now in a position to realize the full potential of its rights-of-way,” said David Peters, The Ray‘s Western Regional Manager. “The underutilized space along highways is ideal for generating not only clean energy, but also revenue for the state. We’re looking forward to seeing highway-side solar projects soon in California.”

California leads the nation in solar power generation, according to Environment California’s Renewables on the Rise dashboard. Putting solar panels on California’s roadside land will keep solar growing and provide clean, reliable energy to communities throughout the state.

“I’m pleased that California can now benefit from clean energy generated on the abundant state land next to our highways,” said state Sen. Josh Becker (Menlo Park). “We urgently need solutions to the climate crisis, and implementing solar and building transmission lines along highways is just about as smart and common sense as it gets.”

California has considerable roadside land next to its more than 52,000 lane miles of state highways and more than 23,000 lane miles of federal interstate highways, freeways and expressways. A recent report by Environment California Research & Policy Center and the Ray found that Los Angeles, Ventura and San Diego counties together have nearly one gigawatt of potential roadside solar capacity, enough to power more than 270,000 homes in these three counties.

In addition to accelerating California’s clean energy build-out, SB 49 can also potentially mean more money in state coffers from lease fees, sales of the generated energy and lower maintenance costs. This isn’t just speculation. In Augusta, Maine, just three roadside solar installations are expected to generate millions of dollars in revenue for the state over their lifetime.

“We thank Gov. Newsom for unlocking more solar energy in California’s built-environment, the smartest place for solar,” said Steven King, Environment California’s clean energy advocate. “SB 49 now becomes one of California’s many tools to reach 100% clean energy.”