Melbourne airport’s massive behind-the-meter solar farm nears completion

Melbourne airport is set to become host to one of Australia’s largest behind-the-meter solar installations, as the construction of dedicated solar project nears completion.

The 12 megawatt Melbourne airport solar farm is currently under construction on land nearby to the airport, allowing the project to operate as a ‘behind-the-meter’ installation, supplying power directly to the airport’s terminals.

The solar installation will deliver around 17GWh of electricity each year, enough to meet around 15 per cent of the airport’s total electricity consumption.

The project is expected to be sufficiently large enough to power all four of Melbourne airport’s passenger terminals at full output.

Melbourne Airport said that the investment in the solar installation would help to reduce its carbon footprint, as well as helping to meet the airport’s growing energy demand once the sector is back to normal after Covid-19.

“With the airport’s electricity demand expected to grow, the construction of our solar farm makes sense for several reasons,” Melbourne Airport’s chief of facilities and utilities Lorie Argus said.

“The project is expected to deliver significant annualised energy cost savings, a timely benefit with the impacts of COVID-19 wreaking havoc on the aviation industry.”

“We are committed to growing the airport in an environmentally, socially and economically sustainable way. This renewable energy project is another chapter in that story,” Argus added.

The project is set to be completed by Beon Energy Solutions, which has previously worked on a number of large-scale solar developments, including the 60MW Jemalong solar farm and the 112MW Mildura solar farm.

The company expects the installation at the Melbourne airport to be the largest behind-the-meter solar installation in Australia.

“The airport location brings with it some unique complexities and challenges, which utilises our collective strengths,” Beon Energy Solutions general manager Glen Thomson said.

“We congratulate Melbourne Airport on their investment and focus on innovative solutions to their growing energy needs and we look forward to continuing the relationship with similar projects across the airport precinct.”

Construction of the solar farm is expected to be completed by the end of September, and fully commissioned by January 2021.

The project follows a number of large solar installations at Australian airports. The largest currently operating project is a 5.73MW installation at the Brisbane airport, completed by Epho in 2018.

Adelaide airport has featured a 1.17MW solar installation, which was completed in March 2016, and which itself followed one of the first commercial scale solar installations at the airport, of around 110kW completed in 2007.

Karratha airport in Western Australia also features a 1MW stand-alone solar farm, which was combined with cloud prediction technology which allows the solar farm to smoothly increase and decrease output, avoiding sudden and disruptive changes in generation due to cloud cover.

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