ARKANSAS, Oct 11 (Future Headlines)- California Governor Gavin Newsom has signed Senate Bill 49 (SB 49), a new law that authorizes state transportation and energy officials to develop guidelines for the installation of solar panels, battery storage, and other renewable energy sites along highways. This legislation, which aims to promote highway-side renewable energy projects, will allow the state’s Department of Transportation to collaborate with utilities and energy agencies to assess the suitability of empty land along California’s highways for renewable energy generation and storage.
SB 49 tasks California’s Department of Transportation with establishing clear guidelines for companies and public agencies interested in developing renewable energy projects alongside state highways. These guidelines will help create a framework for highway-side renewable energy installations.
The legislation gives the department until the end of 2025 to work with state utilities and energy agencies to evaluate the suitability of the empty land along California’s highways for renewable energy production and storage sites.
California’s Department of Transportation states that the state has 250 state highways, totaling over 15,000 miles of road. The land along these highways has the potential to generate approximately one gigawatt of solar energy, which could power more than 270,000 California homes.
The interagency analysis required by SB 49 will assess factors that may inhibit highway-side renewable energy projects, including existing laws, safety issues, and potential regulatory obstacles.
The bill aims to establish a process for entities interested in leasing highway land for renewable energy development. This process will help streamline the approval and leasing of these lands for renewable energy projects.
SB 49 is seen as a “win-win-win” by State Sen. Josh Becker, the original author of the bill. It is expected to help California expand its renewable energy capacity, create new green jobs, and generate additional state revenue. The use of empty space along highways for renewable energy installations can help reduce pressure on California’s deserts, where many solar panels are currently located.
In addition to SB 49, Governor Newsom approved a series of climate bills over the weekend, including two corporate disclosure bills that will require companies to annually report their carbon emissions and the financial impact of climate change on their business starting in 2026.
The signing of SB 49 aligns with California’s ongoing efforts to boost its renewable energy capacity, reduce carbon emissions, and promote sustainability. By leveraging the land alongside highways for solar panels and battery storage, the state aims to enhance its clean energy infrastructure and contribute to a greener and more sustainable future. This move follows in the footsteps of other states, like Oregon, which has pioneered solar highway projects and served as an inspiration for similar initiatives in many regions.
Reporting by Kevin Wood; Editing by Sarah White