In­done­sia strug­gles to tap vol­cano power

China Daily (USA) - - WORLD - By AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE in Wayang Windu, In­done­sia

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.

BAY ISMOYO / AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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.

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