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Solar Indonesia: where do we place 10 billion solar panels?
- Sep 11, 2021 9:24 pm GMT
By mid-century, Indonesia will be an industrialized country of 335 million people. Full electrification of transport, heating and industry to remove all fossil fuels means that electricity demand will rise to 9000 Terawatt-hours (TWh) per year.
Indonesia lacks significant wind resources, and so will rely mostly on solar. Each person will need about 20 kilowatts (100 square meters) of solar panel to enjoy similar energy services to Singapore, Europe, North America and Australia – about 7 Terawatts (TW) in all.
People will enjoy cheap solar energy, a stable climate and blue skies. There will be no more greenhouse emissions, coal mining, coal dust, coal mine fires, power station explosions, power station smog, power station ash, gas fracking, oil drilling, oil spills, oil-related warfare, car exhausts or urban smog.
But where will we put the 10 billion solar panels that we need? Indonesia is a densely populated country with vast areas of natural land that must not be destroyed to host solar panels. A recent study has answered this question. It turns out that Indonesia has ample space.
Indonesia also has vast off-river pumped hydro energy storage, far more than enough to balance a 100% solar powered energy system during the nighttime and rainy periods.
Indonesia has a land area of 1.9 million km2 and a maritime area of 6.4 million km2. The required area of solar panels in 2050 is 35,000 km2. This is where to install the required 10 billion panels:
- Rooftop solar: solar can be accommodated on residential, commercial and industrial rooftops amounting to around 1 TW.
- Agrophotovoltaics (APV) entails the co-location of solar panels with pasture or crops. This dual use of land is an additional income stream for farmers. Many countries have developed APV systems up to grid-scale. Indonesia has 210,000 km2 of low-growing crops. Assuming an average APV coverage fraction of 10% is applied to all low-growing crops except rice, 2 TW could be placed here.
- Former mining sites already have existing electricity distribution/transmission lines and transport infrastructure which could help developers reduce capital costs in solar PV deployment. We found 2,300 km2 of disturbed land, enough for 0.5 TW. Plans are afoot for an initial 2.3 GW solar plant in ex-mining areas.
- Floating solar PV (FPV) is rapidly growing, with several Gigawatts installed to date. Indonesia is the only equatorial archipelago. Tropical storms, large waves and strong winds are very rare in the inland sea. We found an area of 700,000 km2 which has not experienced any wave over 4 metres height or wind stronger than 15 metres per second in the last 40 years. This area is enough to generate 180,000 TWh, which is 20 times larger than Indonesia would ever need. Indeed, its large enough to power a fully electrified global economy of 10 billion affluent people in 2050.
A 145 MW floating solar PV on Cirata Reservoir will start operating at the end of 2022, with 857 MW to follow. Sunseap Group (a Singaporean solar energy company) and Batam free zone authority have signed a memorandum of understanding for a 2.2 GW floating solar farm project located on the Duriangkang Reservoir in Batam Island, Indonesia.
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