One of Australia’s largest solar farms has opened at Melbourne Airport.

Spanning an area the size of 26 football fields, the solar farm will power around 15 per cent of the international airport’s four terminals.

With a majority of flights cancelled during the past 18 months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Victorian capital’s major airport was able to push forward with the 12-megawatt solar farm project that forms part of its accelerated plan to reduce scope 1 and scope 2 emissions by 2025.

Melbourne Airport’s chief of ground transport, Jai McDermott, said the enforced shutdown of a majority of airline services during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic allowed work to progress rapidly on installation of 30,000 solar panels located near the north-south runway.

“The airport was definitely quiet on most days during the pandemic so we were able to crack on with a great project,” he said.

The project was first announced in August 2020 and is forecast to generate 17 gigawatt-hours of electricity per annum

Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change Lily D’Ambrosio recently voiced her support for the Melbourne Airport solar farm initiative.

“This very much fits in with our government’s ambitions when it comes to achieving net zero emissions by 2050, and importantly, halving our emissions by 2030,” she said.

“It shows what you can achieve when you make a decision, set yourself clear ambition, and you take actions that can be seen and replicated.

“Next time you fly into Melbourne Airport keep your eyes open for their new solar farm – it’s impressive.

“It’s great to see so many businesses playing their part in helping meet our goal to halve Victoria’s emissions by 2030.”

In addition to the solar farm project, Melbourne Airport has also announced the introduction of an organics waste recycling stream that will see 60 per cent of terminal waste diverted from landfill by 2024. It is expected to be operational by the end of 2022.

Melbourne Airport’s chief of infrastructure, Simon Gandy, said the facility’s net-zero target is among the most ambitious carbon emissions reduction plan of any capital city airport in Australia.

“While our primary job is to move passengers and freight safely and efficiently around Australia and the world, we are committed to doing so in a way that is environmentally responsible,” he said.

“We know that achieving net zero Scope 1 and 2 emissions by 2025 is ambitious, but we also recognise that we need to take big steps to tackle the challenges we face as a global society.

“We will achieve our target by reducing our energy footprint through operational and technology efficiencies, and sourcing our future energy demands through renewable energy generation.

“This means that by 2030 we expect to have more than 50 per cent of our energy needs met by expanding our onsite solar generation facilities, with the remainder of our energy requirements procured through dedicated power purchasing agreements directly linked to high-quality solar and wind farm developments in Victoria.

“In addition to Scope 1 and 2, we are developing a strategy for Scope 3 emissions, working closely with our airline and ground transport partners, airport tenants and broader supply chain to reduce emissions across the aviation industry.

“The introduction of an organics waste stream is expected to further reduce our environmental footprint and contribute to the airport’s goal of diverting 60 per cent of terminal waste from landfill by the end of 2024.

“It follows a ban on single-use plastics in the airport’s terminals that came into force at the end of 2021. “Outside of our terminals we continue to practice circular economy principles by reusing soil, water, concrete and asphalt as part of infrastructure construction projects.”