I remember I never really tell people what I’m doing, not to mention telling it out loud in a blog. No. I didn’t feel the urge to do that. But now, I really need to share it with you all. It is quite interesting.
I recently had my first experience visiting the site of micro hydro power (MHP) project in Gunung Halu, Bandung. Gunung Halu is one hamlet in Bandung Regency, West Java. It takes more than three hours to get there from Bandung (or about six hours from Jakarta, including the bad traffic and some stops to pee, hehe). The road is quite rocky and uneasy which makes me think how lucky I am to not having those rocky roads every single day. No signal reception there. And I can’t imagine how those people can survive without it :D.
The MHP in Gunung Halu is considered well maintained. It is 18 kW capacity and is able to electrify 65 households there. Only 20 households have television, DVD player, and/or rice cooker. The rest only use the electricity for lighting (in average 5 lamps per house). Each month, each household should pay between IDR 13,000 to 23,000 depending on their electrical appliances. It is relatively cheap, I guess.
There are six local people trained to operate and maintain the MHP, including to take care of the book keeping. For their service, these people are paid 35,000 Rupiah per month (crazy figure, huh?). Besides the MHP, the operators are also responsible in running coffee business which is not largely established yet. The coffee machines were granted by a UN project. Unfortunately, they sell coffee only when they are able to buy the seed and they sell it 15,000 Rupiah per 200 gr.
Although the MHP can be a good model for other MHPs across the archipelago, Gunung Halu MHP is not the best model since its distance from the national grid is not very far. The decision of installing this Gunung Halu MHP was a bit political (paying promise during election time — old story). Anyhow, having this MHP which could provide cheap electricity for the community is still something.
One common problem with an MHP is that the excess energy especially during the day when the lights should be off. I saw that even the day is so bright, almost all houses turn on their lights. This is not efficient, of course. Hence, we try to find a solution to utilize this energy for productive use. There are several options available such as: hatchery and coffee dryer. We are still trying to design an effective scheme for it. That is one of the purposes why I am hired :-).
The government project’s called Green PNPM aims to construct 80 to 100 new and sustainable MHPs per year. A lot of money (approx. 50 billion Rupiah) will be disbursed for that purpose. I really wish this huge amount of money will reach its target precisely.