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Indonesian Villagers Powered By Locally Sourced Sustainable Energy

Welcome to Flores, Indonesia, a picturesque island with just under two million inhabitants. Flores is conveniently both the 10th biggest and 10th most populous of the many Indonesian islands. It is bursting with wildlife and biodiversity and is named after the Portuguese word for flowers. Despite all the natural growth, economic growth is slow and large parts of the island remain off the grid.

Indonesian CoastSo, where do they get this sustainable energy from?

Several sources actually. In the tiny village of Reno, all 134 homes are powered by a community built micro-hydroelectric generator. Electricity consumption is low, as the people focus mainly on farming and fashioning crafts to sell.

At the start of 2016, 11.7% of Indonesians did not yet have a source of electricity to rely upon, which translates to around 1.6 million households.

Bringing electricity to remote communities is one of the great modern day challenges for the Indonesian government who are keen to support sustainable energy projects but are reputedly slow in making progress. They are currently planning to build 117 new coal-fired plants to add 35,000MW to the national grid. In the meantime, communities are getting more interested in creating their own sustainable energy sources, as in Reno.

Thanks to Mongabay for this brilliant story:

“Father Marselus, as he is known in the village, said he was concerned by how people suffered daily from unreliable electricity. “Almost every day we were busy fixing the generator,” Marselus told Mongabay-Indonesia during a visit to Jakarta. One day, Marselus remembered reading about hydropower and decided he would try it out in the village. He took to the internet and tracked down technical experts.

Accompanied by Budi Wuyono, a technician, Marselus brought the idea to the local church leadership, who supported the initiative. They discussed it with the local community and the parochial council. “At first, some were doubtful. But after we showed a video of how the project succeeded in other areas, the community agreed,” he said.”

Four months from powerless to powerful

Back in July 2012, villagers were asked to contribute 2 million rupiah per family, around $150, for the purchasing of construction materials. The church was in charge of the micro-hydroelectric generator project, finding experts and support staff. The initial costs for the generator were funded partially by the community, partially by the local cooperative and partially through grants from two national banks.

The project took four months. In the end, they named it the Wae Rina Micro-Hydro Power Plant.

This was the first generator, but it wasn’t to be the last. Based on this success and the successful powering of all the village’s homes, the community health centre, market and church, other local communities on Flores expressed their desire in becoming powered by sustainable energy.

Four turbines turn the islander’s tides

Since the first project, three more micro-hydroelectric generators have been built. The War Mese Wangkar plant powers 400 families, a health centre, a community building and Muslim prayer room. Another gives sustainable energy to 316 families, a church, a school and a government office. The fourth and most recent plant puts electricity in the homes of 264 families, three schools and three community buildings.

Using cross-flow turbines, the generators create a combined 160kw of sustainable energy, saving households a lot of money. Those who used kerosene previously are saving 230,000 rupiah ($17) a month, whereas those who used diesel are saving 860,000 rupiah ($64).

More importantly, having built these as a community, the feeling of community spirit and shared success has reportedly brought the people closer together.

What about geothermal power?

Flores IslandWhat we failed to mentioned earlier in this article is that Flores main attraction is a huge, semi-active volcano. Generally, where there’s a volcano, there’s a lot of heat stored underground which can be turned into a sustainable energy source.

This is great news for Flores, as KS-Orka, an Icelandic-Chinese venture, purchased a 30MW geothermal power project in August 2016. They plan to have the first unit up and running in the so-called ‘Sokoria Project’ by December 2018.

This could be great news for the island, but who knows, maybe by then they’ll already have connected everyone to a sustainable energy source!

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