Indonesia, the world’s third greenhouse gas contributor, wants to diversify its clean energy production potential by using the active volcanoes in the archipelago of 17,000 islands. If finished, this would be the world’s biggest geothermal energy project, adding another 4,000 MegaWatts of geothermal capacity to the existing 1,189 MW… all of this by 2014.
One of the issues Indonesia has to get over is the cost of the project. Currently relying mainly on coal-fired power plants, it would be a twice more expensive for the Indonesians to implement geothermal plants – costs for research and development and for building the actual volcano-harvesting plants.
Once established, geothermal plants like the one built in Kamojang, Java, in 1982 can convert the endless free supplies of volcanic heat into electricity with much lower overheads — and less pollution — than coal. This is the pay-off the government is hoping to sell at the fourth World Geothermal Congress opening Sunday on the Indonesian resort island of Bali. The six-day event will attract some 2,000 people from more than 80 countries. “An investment of 12 billion dollars is needed to add 4,000 MW capacity,” energy analyst Herman Darnel Ibrahim said, putting into context the recent announcement of 400 million dollars in financing from lenders including the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank (ADB).
Indonesia’s plan is to spread the electricity to as many people as possible, being the fastest growing economy in the Group of 20. Currently only 65% of the Indonesians have access to electricity, and their government’s goal is to reach 90 percent of the population by the end of the decade, with an extra of 10,000 MW from coal by 2012, and another 10,000 MW from clean sources (including volcanic geothermal) by 2014.
I’ve always wondered why Europe doesn’t pursue such plans of harvesting the active volcanoes. I only have to think of Eyjafjallajokull, and I think there’s enough energy to keep the entire Europe warm for a decade…