Michael Devyln Poulin said his action was intended to highlight domestic insecurity, and that he had been trying to surrender.
He was arrested in South Sacramento after a CHP employee recognized him from a wanted poster, said patrol spokesman Tom Marshall.
"I wish they were all this easy," Marshall said. Poulin said he was looking for directions to the FBI office in Sacramento and did not resist arrest, Marshall said.
In a telephone interview with The Associated Press on Sunday morning, before his arrest, Poulin said he meant to highlight the nation's lack of security for the nation's power infrastructure by loosening and removing bolts at eight towers in four states.
Poulin, 62, of Spokane, Wash., said he had intended to turn himself in to the FBI Sunday afternoon.
He said he'd grown tired of dodging the law. "I'm sort of getting a stiff neck from looking over my shoulder," Poulin said. He said he'd been trying to arrange his surrender for two weeks, but authorities gave him too few details about the legal circumstances that awaited him.
"The attorney general, because this covers any number of jurisdictions, refuses to tell me what I'm facing," Poulin said. "Because the threat of a terrorism charge hangs over me, I could end up in Guantanamo Bay," the facility where the United States is holding terror suspects.
A federal arrest warrant issued last month charges Poulin with damaging an energy facility.
Poulin is accused of removing and loosening bolts from the legs of a high voltage transmission tower near Anderson on Oct. 20.
Bolts also have been loosened or removed from the legs of other transmission towers near Sacramento; Benton City, Wash.; and the Oregon cities of Madras, McNary, Klamath Falls and The Dalles.
Calls placed to Poulin's Eugene, Ore.-based attorney, Dan Koenig, were not immediately returned.
FBI agent Norm Brown, in Spokane, Wash., confirmed Sunday that Poulin has a criminal history. Poulin was sentenced to life in prison in the early 1970s for attempted murder, but only served eight years, Brown said.
By Ron Harris