Organizations show support for California solar carport and highway incentives


Senate Bill 49, introduced by Senator Josh Becker (D-San Mateo), aims to support the buildout of solar above parking lots and along highways throughout California. A coalition of 64 organizations, including Environment California, Environmental working Group, the CALPIRG, and many others, signed a letter of support for the bill.

The bill would create tax incentives for the construction of solar canopies over large parking lots. The legislation states that buildout would, “boost the local generation of clean electricity in urban and suburban areas while reducing the need for dedicated land in rural areas and transmission to deliver the clean energy into population centers.”

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory reports that pavement makes up 35% to 50% of total surface area in cities, and 40% of that pavement is parking lots. Placing a solar canopy over an existing parking lot is a more efficient use of space than acquiring land for a ground mount system.

Los Angeles County alone has 101 square miles of parking lots, and about 25% of the state’s population. A press release by Senator Becker extrapolates these numbers by population, inferring that there should be approximately 400 square miles of parking lots in the state, equivalent to 26 GW of solar canopies.

Analysis from Yale University found that more than one-third of the state’s electricity could come from solar-covered parking lots. The authors found that the final 8,416 sites across the state could generate 9,042 GWh of electricity within their first year of operation. The total capacity of these sites was 7,021 MWdc of solar power. Priced at $3.00 per Watt to install, the solar canopies would generate approximately $21 billion in construction activity.

In addition to covering parking lots, the legislation would make tax incentives available for building highway-side solar. California has over 52,000 lane miles in its state highway system and over 23,000 lane miles of federal interstate highways, freeways, and expressways, reports Caltrans.

“These groups agree that it’s time to use the state’s plentiful parking lots and highway rights-of-way to produce more clean energy now and help California reach its 100% clean energy goals,” wrote the coalition in its letter of support.

The bill, which can be read in its entirety here, is light on details, but the opportunity to save land by integrating solar with the built environment is clear. Watch the video below for Senator Becker’s legislative briefing on the proposed SB 49.

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