Mallee Region Solar Project

The Baillieu government will support a revised push to build a massive solar power project in Victoria’s Mallee region, but has refused to say how much money it is committing.

Power giant TRUenergy is looking to the federal government’s $1.5 billion solar flagship program to fund the project, which was reopened this year after two other projects that won grants failed to meet key conditions.

The Baillieu government says it will contribute money to the Mallee project if it wins the second attempt at flagship funds. But it will not reveal how much it is putting up, citing the commercial-in-confidence nature of the tender process.

TRUenergy is proposing to build a 180 megawatt solar power park 10 kilometres south of Mildura, using thin film photovoltaic panels.

In 2010, the Coalition matched a Brumby government promise to give the Mallee Solar Park project $100 million if it won a flagship grant, which it initially failed to do.

TRUenergy said the falling prices for solar panels meant it has been able to submit a competitive pitch with lower costs, but has not revealed the overall price tag. A decision by the Commonwealth is expected at the end of next month.

A spokeswoman for Energy Minister Michael O’Brien said the state government’s contribution to the project, if it is successful, will be less than $100 million. She said if the bid is successful ”the Victorian government contribution will be funded from an application of existing government programs and additional budget funding”.

Environment Victoria’s Mark Wakeham said ”confirmation of some state government funding for the Mildura solar project is welcome”.

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But Mr Wakeham called for a ”credible roadmap” to achieve a Coalition election commitment that 5 per cent of Victoria’s energy will come from solar power by 2020. ”Even if the Mildura project goes ahead we will be nowhere near hitting this target, especially since the Baillieu government slashed the solar feed-in tariff last year,” he said.

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