Village in Indonesia Has an Unlikely Energy Supply: Tofu

May 18, 2016 05:24 AM EDT

For villagers living in distant towns in Indonesia, cooking and heating homes can be a problem. And it may take a week before resources like wood and gasoline reach the household.

But villagers in Kalisari village in the island of Java in Indonesia found an alternative source of cheap, renewable energy: tofu.

Around 150 small tofu businesses in Kalisari village started the pioneering green movement of converting wastewater from their production floors into clean-burning biogas. And villagers can access this clean fuel anytime through a switch.

"The advantages are huge, because we produce the gas with waste," Waroh, a tofu producer, told AFP.

While most common renewable energy projects use traditional sources like solar or wind, the Kalisari renewable energy is among those taking a more original approach. Other projects include getting energy from sorghum production or pig waste.

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According to experts, harnessing power from unconventional sources like tofu holds enormous potential in Indonesia as this energy-hungry country has been relying on fossil fuels. The local government hopes that the gas will soon power lights in the village as well, as bigger digester tanks are being built to produce more biogas.

Another major benefit of this project is that it keeps the wastewater from tofu production from polluting the environment. Before there were digester tanks, wastewater used to be pumped into the nearby rivers, which contaminates the waterways and the rice fields.

Indonesia is one of the world's largest greenhouse gas emitters. But the Indonesian government has committed to sourcing 25% of the country's energy from renewable sources by 2025.

This is just one of the small-scale initiatives taking place in Indonesia, and though they can't entirely meet the target, they are still making a huge contribution.

Indonesia has thousands of tofu producers. The government says that if this renewable energy project will roll out nationwide, over 56,000 tons of fossil fuels will be replaced by biogas every year.

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