BUILD BEGINS: Melanie Bish and Colin Lambie stand in a parking lot that will soon feature carports complete with solar panels. Picture: TOM O'CALLAGHAN

BUILD BEGINS: Melanie Bish and Colin Lambie stand in a parking lot that will soon feature carports complete with solar panels. Picture: TOM O'CALLAGHAN

Solar plan for car park

La Trobe University to shade cars with Bendigo's biggest solar farm

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Students will soon park cars in the shade of 1500 solar panels.

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LA TROBE University is about to turn two car parks into one of the biggest, if not the biggest, solar farms in Bendigo.

Construction workers have begun building carports topped with 1500 solar panels.

The carports will shade 200 individual parking spaces and help supply 30 per cent of renewable energy at the Flora Hill campus.

The project is part of a wider push to make the entire university carbon neutral by 2029, acting Bendigo campus head Melanie Bish said.

"Across the regional campuses we are looking at achieving that target by 2022," she said.

La Trobe has campuses in Bendigo, Shepparton, Mildura and Albury-Wodonga, as well as in Melbourne.

The new Bendigo solar panels will bring the number already installed on campus to just over 3000, including those already on the roofs of several buildings.

The Bendigo Sustainability Group's Colin Lambie is not aware of any other Bendigo solar farm as big as the roughly 500kw version to be built in La Trobe's car parks.

"The previous biggest was a farm at Huntly, which was 300kw, I believe," he said.

Solar panels remain the best way for Bendigo groups to slash their electricity use despite advances in other technology, Mr Lambie said.

"We don't get the wind resources here, which is next best ... you have to go west to get to the nearest wind farm," he said.

"The wind turbines are getting better and working at lower wind speed, so it might come one day but solar is by far the best around here."

Not only are solar panels good for the environment, they make economic sense, Mr Lambie said.

"It's cheaper, as the International Energy Agency has come out and said in the last few days," he said, referring to a new report that has found solar has overtaken coal as the new king of electricity.

The IEA's World Energy Outlook 2020 report explored different pathways out of the COVID-19 crisis and made renewables the starring feature of all.

Mr Lambie is closely watching how the La Trobe carport project pans out because it will help the sustainability group advise other groups about their own push to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

He said election candidates currently vying for a spot on Bendigo's council should be watching La Trobe's project too.

"Obviously with the elections underway this topic comes up quite a bit. The council has a lot of roofs that are empty," Mr Lambie said.

The carports are not the only way La Trobe is trying to reach its carbon target, Dr Bish said.

The campus has now installed about 6500 low energy LED lights and plans to turn waste into garden compost as the pandemic eases and students can finally return to classrooms.

La Trobe has also installed rainwater tanks to harvest two million litres of rainwater every year, which is used to flush toilets and to irrigate.

The story Solar plan for car park first appeared on Bendigo Advertiser.

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