Water Turbine In The Jungle
Many institutions across the globe are aiming for greener, more sustainable and reliable energy sources, and the education sector is no exception. Schools and other institutions face increasing pressure to meet renewable energy targets throughout the world, and particularly in South East Asia, where less than 15% of the region’s power is currently provided by renewable energy. ASEAN aims to produce at least 23% of its energy from renewable sources by 2025.
This can present a unique set of challenges for communities in remote locations. Most forms of renewable energy require significant amounts of space and construction work. The cost of this work alone can put sustainable energy production beyond the reach of many organizations, in addition to the challenges of transporting materials to a remote location and building robust power infrastructure in difficult terrains and climates.
These issues were all faced by The Green School in Bali, Indonesia, which aimed to power a world-class education entirely through renewable energy in the middle of the jungle.
The Green School
The Green School is a ground-breaking example of sustainable education. The school was founded by John and Cynthia Hardy with the goal of providing a top-level education, using the latest technologies while using 100% off-the-grid renewable energy. Onsite power generation methods such as micro hydro plants are one of the most cost-effective ways for rural communities to access reliable electricity, and in terrain like the Bali jungle, this was the only long-term solution.
To achieve this, The Green School developed their operation “Rain Or Shine project”, which combines solar power and a small hydro plant to provide a resilient and reliable renewable energy supply that also serves as a learning opportunity for students. Through this initiative, the school aims to set an example of sustainable local energy production, which will be critical not just in off-the-grid locations but also for creating greener national grids.
Today, the school hosts a community of over 700 people, including the teachers, staff, and of course the students, providing a world-class education in the unlikeliest of places – the middle of the rainforest in Bali, Indonesia.
The Renewable Energy Challenge
While The Green School was able to provide around 20% of its power needs using solar power, it was clear the goal of 100% green power could not be achieved with solar panels alone.
Solar panels only give their full power output for a couple of hours each day, and provide no power at night. Furthermore, they take up a lot of space. Powering the school solely with solar panels would have required a space the size of four tennis courts to be cleared.
This means that while solar is a great way to supplement power needs with renewable energy, a small hydro plant is the clear choice wherever there is a viable river. It is cost-effective, reliable and much more compact. According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), hydropower is usually the most preferable renewable energy source, in terms of both its cost and its smaller environmental impact than other sources.
For 11 years, the school knew that a water turbine could enable them to achieve their dream of a completely off-the-grid renewable energy supply. Over the years, they tried many installations, but they kept facing major problems:
Most water turbines were only effective on rivers with big height differences and strong water flow. The Ayung is not a viable river for standard hydroelectric technology.
Some of the installations had a negative impact on the surrounding environment, aquatic- and wildlife.