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Indonesia looking to move into geothermal power?

Indonesia has turned heads in the international build and interiors community with a major investment in a large-scale construction project. A geothermal power plant is to be built in West Java that will make use of a huge portion of the country's potential volcanic energy, something that Indonesia has not really made much effort to do in the past.

Despite holding one of the largest sources of potential geothermal energy in the world, Indonesia has a relatively small number of power plants that make use of it. This could be set to change, with the major new project being seen as a positive step forward for the south-east Asian nation.

A move towards geothermal power would be a smart one for Indonesia, and it has taken advantage of foreign expertise in order to do so. This power plant project could be hugely beneficial for the country in a number of different ways.

The project

In order to take advantage of the native geothermal potential, the power plant in question will be fairly large in scale. In total, it is expected to have a capacity of 30 megawatts (MW), potentially enough to power around 30,000 homes. It is hoped that this project will have been completed by the end of 2016.

The geothermal plant will be added to the pre-existing Karaha Power Plant, which is located in the region of Tasikmalaya and Garut in West Java. The $69 million project will be run by  PT Pertamina Geothermal Energy, a subsidiary of an Indonesian state-owned oil and natural gas provider.

Foreign expertise

The power plant itself is being designed, supplied and installed by Alstom, a multinational company based in France. It will be responsible for engineering, materials and construction on the project. PT Pertamina made a wise decision choosing Alstom, as it will enable them to take advantage of the international firm's considerable expertise.

Alstom has already constructed the the largest commercial-scale geothermal plant in the world: the 191 MW plant in Wairakei, New Zealand. It is also used to working in Indonesia, having been present in the country for around 50 years. The company currently employs around 1,500 people in the region.

Geothermal potential

The fact that a plant of this size has not yet been created in Indonesia is something of a surprise. The country is made up of thousands of islands, many of which are volcanic. It has around 130 active volcanoes, which give it an estimated 30,000 MW of potential geothermal power waiting to be unlocked.

However, Indonesia is only taking advantage of around 1,500 MW of this; roughly five per cent of the total. The new power plant is a good step forward, but it will only utilise another 0.1 per cent of Indonesia's potential. Nearby countries the Philippines and the US both produce more geothermal power than Indonesia despite having much less capacity.

The future for Indonesia?

This is far from the only investment Indonesia has made in producing geothermal power recently. The nation's government is looking to reduce its carbon emissions and its reliance on traditional power supplies such as oil and coal, so has fast-tracked a number of power projects such as the $69 million Karaha Power Plant scheme.

It seems highly likely that more geothermal power projects will be being constructed in Indonesia in the next few years. Indonesia has also shown that it is looking for international firms to help with this, so as to take advantage of their expertise in the area, which is a promising sign for the nation.

Steven Moss, vice president in charge of renewable steam plants at Alstom, said: “We are delighted to play a key role in helping Indonesia achieve its energy goals. This installation reinforces Alstom’s continued commitment to the geothermal markets and the importance of this renewable fuel source."

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