Melbourne wants to use solar energy to power its tram network

A tram passes Flinders Street Station in Melbourne. Photo: Scott Barbour / Getty Images)

Melbourne wants to use solar energy to power its tram network, but it won’t be a case of the distinctive panels replacing the overhead grid — the Andrews government wants to build a 75 MW plant in regional Victoria.

Victorian minister for energy, environment and climate change Lily D’Ambrosio said the government planned to open tenders to build the solar plant this year, with a goal to complete the state’s first large scale solar plant by the end of 2018.

She said the project would bring $150 million in new capital investment and 300 new jobs, as well as reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80,000 tonnes annually.

To help make the project viable, the Andrews government has pledged to effectively “buy” 35MW of power from the farm by surrendering renewable energy certificates matching the amount of electricity used by the privately-run Melbourne tram network, the largest in the world.

“We will use our purchasing power as a large energy consumer to boost investment in renewables and create new jobs for Victorians,” D’Ambrosio.

The solar plan is part of a $200 million plan to create 100 megawatts of renewable energy projects, announced by Andrews in 2015.

The announcement comes just weeks before French energy giant ENGIE closes the massive Hazelwood coal-fired power station in the Latrobe Valley at the end of March. The 1,600 MW station produces up to a quarter of Victoria’s base load electricity and 5% of the national demand.

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