The Indonesian city of Bandung has a solar tree composed of 16 solar panels with a capacity of 50 megawatts. Built in January 2020 at the Alun-Alun City Park, the solar tree is a result of collaboration between the Bandung City government and the PT Len Industri, a state-owned company that develops electronic equipment.
However, the use of solar panels is limited. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the use of solar panels in some public facilities such as the Bandung Alun-Alun Park was restricted.
Sam, who sells children’s toys for a living, is inevitably frustrated by the restrictions on access to the park. As a result, one of the solar panel lights is no longer operational. It is also impractical to turn on the solar panels, since there is no one else in the park. As a result, the community cannot fully take advantage of lighting coming from solar-powered lights.
“If there are people, it will be good. The lighting is good too,” he said.
Sam hopes the Bandung City government will fully reopen the park and relax restrictions so residents can utilize the renewable energy project, especially since there is a cleaning and maintenance department that takes care of this.
Two years later, the solar panel program was also implemented at Tegalega Park in Otto Iskandar Dinata Street. A solar-powered hut stands near a monument in that park.
The facility can store power of up to 720 watts per hour, and is intended to meet the basic energy needs of the community like charging their mobile phones and illuminating the plaza in the middle of the park.
However, there were only a few men who took advantage of the hut. Outside the park, traders use emergency lights to illuminate their tents and rely on lights cast from surrounding buildings.
The solar energy program in Bandung’s public spaces comes from the corporate social responsibility (CSR) funds of PT. LEN and its subsidiary PT. Surya Energi Indotama (SEI).
SEI directly monitors and maintains the solar-powered hut. The maintenance of the hut lasted until the end of 2020. It is also a provider of a solar energy gazebo to the Bandung city government.
The company vows to push through with the development of new renewable energy in the future as it prepares for a possible takeover of solar panel development from PT. LEN.
A total of five units of Solar Energy Gazebo as part Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) between the Bandung City Government with PT. Surya Energi Indotama (SEI) were installed at Tegallega Park.
Solar panel effectiveness in urban area
Although Bandung City’s green open space (RTH) is still below the average percentage, the tree-filled city parks are seen as an obstacle for the clean energy push. Green open spaces make up around 12.5% of the city’s total area.
“When the park is shady, it’s difficult to get sunlight, so usually the power runs out quickly, so we will also try to install solar panels in open gardens,” said Rizki Kusrulyadi, head of DPKP3 Bandung City.
Almost all city parks in Bandung are lush, and only Tegallega Park is used for the installation of the solar energy program. So far, there are only seven units of solar-powered facilities in this urban area.
Public street lighting is one of the products of PT. LEN that was installed in the company’s parking lot in Soekarno Hatta Street, Bandung City.
The argument that shady trees limit the application of solar power can be disproved. For example, solar panels can be installed on the roofs of office buildings. Solar panels can also be built in by parking lots.
There are about 230 government offices in the city where solar panels can potentially be installed.
If the solar panels are installed in hundreds of government offices, the city government will benefit from the clean energy source for at least 25 years. But the impacts of investing 3.3 million rupiah to produce 375 watts per day will not be felt immediately during the first few years after the switch to clean energy.
“[The installation of photovoltaic panels] generates electricity for the building’s consumption, so it can be combined with PLN. Second, the presence of PV can reduce the thermal load of the building, so if it’s not too hot, the air conditioner doesn’t need to be turned on too much,” explained Yuli Setyo Indartono, who is part of the Institute for Research and Community Service (LPPM) ITB.
Utilization of solar panels in the PT. Surya Energi Indotama (SEI) on Soekarno Hatta Street in Bandung
Taking roles through solar panels
One of the obstacles in the installation of solar panels is the cost. Moreover, electricity from traditional sources is still available, resulting in solar energy projects receiving less attention.
“Because of that, they haven’t opened their minds yet, electricians are still there. Moreover, Java Island is experiencing electricity over capacity, so it has to be distributed,” said Senior CSR PT. LEN, Yuda Riantoro.
“It’s free at the start, but in the future you still have to pay. That’s why solar panels aren’t very popular, because there’s an excess of electricity,” he said.
However, if Java experiences a shortage of electricity, it is likely that many will use these solar panels.
The PT LEN Industri said the company is only temporarily meeting the community’s needs for solar panels through their CSR while still within the scope of public facilities. It is the responsibility of users in the long term, and is business in nature.
Solar Generation campaigner Amalia Narya Saleha said this problem could be overcome first through the government’s policy of providing subsidies to the lower middle class.
“Maybe the community will reach out to this,” she said in November.
She also said that some stakeholders in Bandung still lack understanding of solar panels. Hence, an awareness campaign is needed to highlight the importance of new renewable energy to communities.
“We can provide solar energy facilities for them, by helping residents. We can even provide education. One side can support residents from an economic and educational perspective,” said Saleha.
Using solar energy is the right step that can be done in cities. Photovoltaics can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate the impacts of climate change.
One of the solar panels installed on the roof of PT. LEN.
“All components in Indonesia must move there, because PLN, the government, launched a large number of solar cells in Indonesia,” said Yuli, who is one of the lecturers who helped develop solar cells.
All parties need to collaborate to develop and promote solar panels, not just make it a temporary energy development project.
Concrete and systematic efforts are needed in order to make solar panels accessible to various groups of people in Bandung. Therefore, the use of solar panels for public facilities will not only be for aesthetics, but their use can be genuinely felt by the community.