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Villagers Produce Electricity: Banyumas, Central Java

Username By Wombat | March 28th, 2006 | Comments 2 Comments »

In a small village in the Bayumas Regency in Central Java, villagers have been very innovative in producing their own electricity as contributor Suherdjoko reports.

Villagers generate own electricity
Suherdjoko, Banyumas, Central Java

As parts of the national drive to conserve energy, people have been strongly encouraged to switch off lights during the day and use only energy-saving light bulbs and electrical appliances.

Villagers of Semaya hamlet in Banyumas regency, however, see this as an impossibility. Doing so, for them, will only mean trouble and, most importantly, cost them extra money.

You may wonder why, but they believe it to be true.

If you happen to visit the village and spend a night and day there, you will promptly notice that not a single house in this remote village switches off lights, even during the day.

What is more amazing is that this has been going on for over 20 years. It has been the custom since 1985 to be precise, and thus long before the government established the so-called Listrik Masuk Desa (Electricity Enters Villages) program.

Why? It is because the villagers here, who are mostly farmers, have built their own power plant!

Every single house in this remote village, which is located on the slopes of Mt. Slamet about 10 kilometers to the north of Purwokerto, has its own turbine and generator, which produces electricity.

If one walks down to the river some 300 meters away from the main residential area, below the village, which local people have named Logawa River, you will find an amazing, beautiful scene of hundreds of turbines made of wood and mounted on the bank of the river.

The flow of the river has been re-directed in such away that the water directly contacts the turbines. The turbines turn and are connected to by a rubber belt to used generators, mostly from 1970s Honda motorcycles, from which electricity of 70 watts and 220 to 240 volts is generated and then channeled to the respective houses via power lines.

“We don’t need much money to build so…,” Head of Semaya hamlet Sukirman said.

What they need, according to Sukirman, is just Rp 50,000 for the used generators, Rp 10,000 for the used rubber belts, which are made from used inner-tubes, and a bit more for the power lines.

For the turbines, which are basically waterwheels, as they are made of wood, the villagers do need to buy some things. Most of the villagers are capable of making the turbines on their own. A waterwheel, according to Sukirman, can produce electricity sufficient enough for a television set and some lights. The more electricity they need, the more waterwheels and generators they need.

The problem is, once a lamp or electric appliance is switched on using the electricity produced by the turbine, it cannot just be switched off. Doing so will damage the alternator as it keeps producing electricity, even if the output is not in use. That explains why even during the day, not a single light is switched off.

The idea to make waterwheels to produce electricity, according to Sukirman, began in 1985.

It was a generator specialist named Agus, from the neighboring town of Banjarnegara, who inspired the villagers to make their own power as he explained how the waterwheel would produce electricity. He was then taken to Logawa River to observe the possibility of making the waterwheel then and a trial was done. They made two waterwheels and it worked.

Ever since that time, more and more villagers have done the same and now all 266 families are independent power producers, none is dependent on or indebted to state-owned electricity company PLN.

“We now even have a waterwheel specialist here. Every time there is something wrong with one of the alternators, for example if it is burned out, he is fetched to fix it,” said Sukirman, referring to Suwarto, the hamlet’s waterwheel and alternator specialist.

According to Suwarto, an alternator usually breaks down when the owner of the house forgets to switch on all the lamps when the flow of the river increases, mostly during the rainy season. When the river is flooding, the waterwheel moves very rapidly that it also increases the voltage of the electricity produced. If the production increases, while at the same time the usage is not increased, the alternator will burn out.

All the villagers of Semaya, fortunately, have become accustomed to the character of both the river and the waterwheel power system. During the rainy season, for example, when the lights are illuminated brighter, it means that the flow of the river has increased and it may be flooding.

When the electricity suddenly goes out, on the other hand, it can mean two things. The alternator has been fried or the waterwheel has been dislodged and swept away by the river.

“If the waterwheel gets swept away, then we will make another one the following morning,” Suwarto said.

In many cases, however, the alternator is rarely, if ever, swept away by the river. It is because the alternator is securely attached to the trees along the riverbank.

“So, it is usually the turbine that is carried away by the river,” Suwarto said.

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2 Responses to “Villagers Produce Electricity: Banyumas, Central Java”

Geoff | March 28th, 2006 at 12:33 pm | comment link
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Bloody crafty buggas!. At least they don’t pay any bills and they get their spark from natural resources to boot. Good one I reckon.

Barrie | March 28th, 2006 at 6:34 pm | comment link
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Hi Geoff,

I thought it was good too. I do have another article I will put up later on in the week about another vilage doing the same.

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