SUN Act proposes spurring renewable energy development with interstate right-of-way changes

Published on March 13, 2024 by Chris Galford

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With the introduction of the Solar Use Network (SUN) Act (H.R. 7518), U.S. Rep. Katie Porter (D-CA) suggested converting unused interstate right-of-ways into community developments for renewable energy projects.

Her effort was cosponsored by U.S. Reps. Nikema Williams (D-GA), Jared Huffman (D-CA), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Henry Johnson (D-GA), and Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC).

“Californians know that our clean energy transition cannot wait,” Porter said. “To limit the damage of climate change in our communities, we need to think creatively about how Congress can spur the development of clean energy infrastructure. My SUN Act would make it easier for utilities to build charging stations and generate renewable energy along otherwise unused land, helping power our future one mile at a time.”

The bill would change the U.S. Code to allow electric vehicle charging infrastructure, renewable energy generation facilities, electrical transmission and distribution infrastructure, as well as broadband infrastructure and conduit to be built along interstate highways, such as medians. This could see solar panels and electric vehicle chargers added to the side of the road. For example, Environment America reported that in just three southern California counties, installing solar along highways could provide enough power to supply 270,000 homes.

“Building more green infrastructure is essential to improving the health of our communities,” Williams said. “The SUN Act rises to meet this need by transforming under-utilized space on highways into environmentally friendly power sources. This is critical for marginalized communities that were intentionally divided by interstate highways, and the SUN Act is yet another way to bring long overdue repair.”

Beyond Congress, the SUN Act has been backed by environmental groups and other organizations, including CA EnviroVoters, Environment America, Environment California, Environment Georgia, Environmental Defense Fund, Evergreen Action, League of Conservation Voters, Natural Resources Defense Council and Rewiring America.