The Latrobe Valley's first utility scale renewable energy project has been given the green light from the Victorian government, with planning approval for the Fraser Solar farm at Toongabbie fast-tracked as part of the Andrews government's economic response to Covid-19.
Friends of the Earth and local community and sustainability groups have welcomed the news, saying that this marks a shift to renewable energy in the region, and will deliver benefits for jobs, regional investment and the climate.
"This is an exciting step forward for the Latrobe Valley, it's good to know we will continue to have a future in energy production by building renewable energy here in our community" said Wendy Farmer President of community group Voices of the Valley.
"This is the beginning of a shift towards renewable energy in the region, and we're looking forward to seeing more jobs and investment flow from projects like the Fraser solar farm" said Farmer.
Dan Caffrey, Secretary of the Latrobe Valley Sustainability Group also welcomed the news saying "The timing of this development is impeccable and will help bring the Latrobe Valley safely out of the Covid downturn by creating jobs and generating more clean, affordable electricity backed up by storage."
The Fraser solar farm is predicted to power 29,000 Victorian homes with renewable energy and avoid 154,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions every year. Building the project is expected to create 250 direct and indirect jobs, as well as 4 ongoing positions.
The news comes just a week after Victoria's Andrews government announced a plan to build at least 600 megawatts of new wind and solar projects and drive investment in 'Renewable Energy Zones' around Victoria as part of its economic response to Covid-19.
"This is a great outcome for Latrobe Valley community members who have been advocating for renewable energy for years" said Pat Simons, Friends of the Earth's Yes 2 Renewables Coordinator.
"With the Fraser solar farm going ahead, could now be the time to declare the Latrobe Valley and Gippsland a renewable energy zone to attract more job-creating projects like this to the region?" asked Simons.
In coming weeks Friends of the Earth will release research quantifying the benefits of building Gippsland's renewable energy pipeline for action on climate change, jobs and investment.