Tofu serves up cheap green energy on the side

Around 150 small tofu businesses in Kalisari village are benefiting from a green scheme that converts wastewater from their production floors into a clean-burning biogas.
Around 150 small tofu businesses in Kalisari village are benefiting from a green scheme that converts wastewater from their production floors into a clean-burning biogas.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Indonesian village gets its fuel from bean curd wastewater

KALISARI (Indonesia) • In a dark and steamy room in Indonesia's tofu heartland, three men perspire over bubbling cauldrons, churning creamy bean curd with wooden paddles before draining it by hand and slicing it into silky cubes.

Tofu has been cooked this way for generations but today, innovative villagers on Java island are producing something extra from the simple soya bean - cheap, renewable energy, piped directly into their homes.

Around 150 small tofu businesses in Kalisari village, many run from the family home, are benefiting from a pioneering green scheme that converts wastewater from their production floors into a clean-burning biogas.

Where families once relied on sporadic deliveries of tanked gas or wood for stoves, tofu producers like Mr Waroh, who goes by one name, can access this cleaner fuel any time, with the flick of a switch. "The advantages are huge because we produce the gas with waste," he said as he boiled tea over a steady blue flame coming from his kitchen stove.

Experts said harnessing power from unconventional sources like tofu holds enormous potential in Indonesia, a vast, energy-hungry nation heavily reliant on fossil fuels.

Renewable energy accounts for just a fraction of the power generated across Indonesia, a sprawling archipelago of more than 17,000 islands with about 250 million people.

But the government has committed to curbing Indonesia's greenhouse gases - it is one of the world's top emitters - and wants a quarter of the country's energy to be derived from renewables by 2025.

Small-scale projects alone will not meet this target, but they are making a contribution.

The Kalisari initiative is among a handful taking a more original approach. Other projects include generating energy from sorghum production and pig waste. Researchers are considering other applications for the technology, including the tapioca sector.

Local government head Aziz Masruri said he hopes Kalisari will be transformed into a 100 per cent "green village". He said: "We hope next year, we can become an energy-efficient village, free of pollution."

AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 14, 2016, with the headline 'Tofu serves up cheap green energy on the side'. Print Edition | Subscribe