A $174 million biomass power plant near Mildura is a step closer, with Victorian Planning Minister Matthew Guy last week approving the rezoning of land at Carwarp for the 35-megawatt power station in addition to an 18-kilometre electricity transmission line and substation to connect to the existing grid.
Located close to the existing Solar Systems solar power plant at Carwarp, the Balfour Beatty Investments power plant will receive a $3 million Regional Growth Fund grant from the Victorian Government and is expected to be operating within three years.
The power station will be built next to Olam's existing almond processing plant and will process almond hulls and shells, as well as grape skins from local wineries, into electricity.
"Transforming plant waste into a new source of power has numerous benefits for the region and our environment. Residents are likely to see lower power bills, farmers will have a new income stream and the local economy will be bolstered by new industry and jobs," Mr Guy said.
"With an increasing focus on renewable energy, long-term planning for the region has identified this opportunity to expand on traditional regional industries to drive jobs and economic growth.
"As envisaged in the Loddon Mallee North Regional Growth Plan, the region is quickly becoming a centre for investment in sustainable energy production, such as solar and biofuels. This next stage will confirm the region's reputation as a clean energy centre."
Local Mildura MLA Peter Crisp welcomed the next step in what he says could be one of the largest private capital investments in the region.
"This project will create 26 full-time jobs, use around 200,000 tonnes of plant waste a year and generate enough electricity to power around 20,000 homes," Mr Crisp said.
The 52-hectare Carwarp site was rezoned from Farming Zone to Special Use Zone, tailored specifically for a bioenergy power plant.