Indonesia struggles to tap volcano power
Columns of steam shoot from the ground at an Indonesian power plant sitting in the shadow of an active volcano, as energy is tapped from the red-hot underbelly of the archipelago.
Pipes zigzag up rugged mountainsides covered in tea plantations, carrying steam from the Earth’s core to power enormous, electricity generating turbine sat the Wayang Windu facility on Java island.
Indonesia, a seismically-active island chain studded with scores of volcanoes, holds an estimated 40 percent of the world’s geothermal energy reserves, but has long lagged behind in its use of the renewable power source.
Nowthe government is pushing to expand the sector fivefold in the next decade, although the challenges are huge in a country where the burden of red tape remains onerous, big projects are often delayed and targets missed.
“The potential is tremendous,” said Rully Wirawan, field manager at Wayang Windu. “The current government is trying to tackle the challenges so I believe the development of the sector will be better in future.”
Geothermal, a clean energy source which releases negligible amounts of greenhouse gases, unlike burning dirty fossil fuels, is mostly found in seismically-active areas around tectonic plate boundaries.
The Earth’s heat emanating through the faultlines warms underground reservoirs, and the resulting steam can be channeled to geothermal energy plants.
The majority of Indonesia’s power is generated from its abundant reserves of coal and oil.
It currently has installed capacity to produce about 1,400 megawatts of electricity from geothermal, enough to provide power to just 1.4 million households in the country off 255 million.
That is less than five percent of geothermal’s estimated potential and behind the world’s two leading producers of the energy source, the United States and the Philippines.
But the government is aiming to increase Indonesia’s generating capacity to around 7,200 MW by 2025, as part of a broader plan to boost the renewables sector, which would likely make it the world’s top producer of the power source.
Plant technicians inspect machinery at the Wayang Windu geothermal power station on West Java in Indonesia last month. Indonesia is home to about 130 volcanoes.