Indonesia has large solar energy potential

Amid Japan’s ongoing nuclear crisis, experts agree that Indonesia should consider less hazardous options before building a domestic nuclear power plant.

Indonesia’s geographic location enabled the country to employ energy sources such as wind energy, solar and hydroelectric power, which would provide more secure alternatives over the long run, according to activists and experts.

Indonesia, like Japan, is located on the so-called Pacific “Ring of Fire” and is prone to frequent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions — which makes building a nuclear power plant risky business.

“Indonesia has large solar energy potential. With a potential of using around 40 percent of that energy, Indonesia can do a lot of things,” Arif Yanto of Greenpeace Indonesia said.

Indonesia is only utilizing 1,150 megawatts, about 5 percent, of its estimated potential solar energy capacity of 28 gigawatts.

Arif said that Indonesia as a tropical country had an abundance of solar energy. Arif mentioned the possible use of wind power and hydroelectric power.

“Indonesia is filled with small rivers and lakes, especially in Sulawesi and West Java. There is a promise for hydroelectric power to be an alternative energy source,” Arif said.

Other than Indonesia, fellow ASEAN member nations Malaysia and Vietnam were also reportedly considering the use of nuclear energy.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono previously said he was in no rush to build a nuclear power plant in Indonesia.

“Maybe the next administration will consider such a plan should there be an urgent need for an alternative energy source,” Yudhoyono said on June 18.

The President’s remarks came after an announcement from the National Nuclear Energy Agency (Batan) on June 6 that it would build a nuclear power plant in Bangka Belitung province.

“Bangka Belitung province is still the most feasible area [for a nuclear power plant] based on geological data from the state geology agency under the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry,” Batan head Hudi Hastowo said.

An abundance of granite in Bangka Belitung’s geological structure was one of the main reasons for choosing the province for a plant, Hastowo said.

Layers of granite in the Earth’s crust have been renowned as a deep geological repository for radioactive nuclear waste, Hastowo said.

According to University of Indonesia international relations expert Hariyadi Wirawan, Yudhoyono was on the right track.

Given Indonesia’s geological instability, it would not be appropriate to build a nuclear power plant here, he added.

“There is a vast variation in terms of the abundance of energy. Thus the government should take advantage and reap the availability of these options.”