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California Senate Introduces Bill to Encourage Solar Carport Installations

California Sen. Josh Becker (D-San Mateo) introduced Senate Bill 49, a bill incentivizing solar carport development, at the State Capitol on Monday.

“Solar farms use a tremendous amount of land, but that type of open space either isn’t available or is tremendously expensive in cities and suburbs that use the most power,” Becker said. “That’s what makes the solar canopy concept so appealing because it wouldn’t require any more land, it would just give parking lot owners an incentive to make dual-use of their lots by essentially putting a miniature power plant above all those cars.”

The bill would create a tax incentive for companies to build solar canopies in large parking lots to boost the local clean electricity generation, avoiding more solar development on land. According to a report from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, pavement makes up 35%-50% of the total surface area in cities, and 40% of that pavement is parking lots.

Last month, France passed legislation requiring all parking lots with more than 80 spaces to be covered by solar panels. The French government estimates its plan could generate up to 11 GW of electricity. This past March, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill letting businesses that put up solar canopies in large-scale commercial parking lots and similar areas pay the sales and use taxes associated with buying the equipment over an eight-year period instead of having to pay them all upfront.

Los Angeles County has an estimated 101 square miles of parking lots that could produce an estimated 6.5 GW of power if they were covered by solar canopies. Given Los Angeles County is home to about 25% of the state’s population, that could mean almost 26 GW of solar could be available through these solar canopies.

California’s energy agencies estimate the state needs about 110 GW of new solar power to meet its 100% clean energy target by 2045. If half of the state’s parking lots were covered with solar canopies, that would provide 13 GW of power — more than 10% of the new solar needed.

“This is one of the many tools we’re going to need to use to hit our targets of using 90% clean energy by 2035 and achieving 100% carbon neutrality by 2045,” Becker said. “In my view, this is relatively low-hanging fruit. We’ve got the land available — now the challenge is to make better use of it.”

SB 49 will be assigned to a Senate policy committee where it will be heard in early 2023.

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