You know the South Pole penguin, but what about the faces behind it?

In March our global marketing team met in Jakarta, Indonesia for the annual 2018 Marketing Retreat. We visited our Gunung Salak project south of the Indonesian capital, where we saw the project in action. The field trip was an enormously rewarding experience for all, and gave us the chance to engage on a deeper level with one of our projects and the local people it impacts.

None of this would be possible without the support of our clients and we want to thank you by bringing you a better understanding of the impact your contribution is making – not only in the global fight against climate change, but for the local people whose lives have been positively touched through your involvement.

Read on for a deeper insight into the Gunung Salak project and how geothermal power works, see the incredibly hospitable culture of Indonesia and get a behind-the-scenes glimpse of one of our core teams at work.

Indonesia is an archipelago nation located on the Pacific Ring of Fire. This not only brings some volcanic activity, but gives the country huge potential for emissions-free geothermal energy production – in fact, about 40 percent of the world’s geothermal reserves are located beneath Indonesia. [1]

Yet only 6 percent of these reserves have been developed. This is largely because before Indonesian legislation was revised in 2014, geothermal development was classed as a mining activity. [2]

This made it near-impossible to tap into this geothermal potential, as around 80 percent of Indonesia’s geothermal locations are within protected forests and national parks.

Located in Mount Halimun Salak National Park in West Java, the Gunung Salak geothermal facility is no exception.

The Gunung Salak geothermal project is located south of Jakarta in West Java, Indonesia

Gunung Salak itself is a partially eroded volcano about 90 kilometres south of Jakarta, but in the crazy traffic that the average Jakartan spends 22 days a year in, this is a journey that can take anywhere between three and six hours.

Nearby volcano Gunung Salak is the geothermal facility’s power source (Image credit: Hiroshi sanjuro, Wikimedia Commons)

Roughly translating to “Silver Mountain” in English, Gunung Salak hasn’t erupted since 1938 – “so it could be due for another eruption.”

This was the tongue-in-cheek advice passed onto us by ‘bu Anna, our very entertaining local Gunung Salak expert, during our field trip briefing.

The volcano has also been nicknamed an “airplane graveyard”, and there are several cases of mountaineers disappearing on its scenic hiking routes over the years.

Our local Gunung Salak expert, 'bu Anna during our site visit to the geothermal facility

With this in mind, our marketing team awoke early on Tuesday 22 March to journey to Gunung Salak and visit our geothermal project.

The Gunung Salak geothermal power plant is owned by PT Indonesia Power, a subsidiary of state-owned electricity company, PT PLN (Persero).

South Pole’s Gunung Salak Geothermal Energy project involved upgrading the capacity of this geothermal plant, which now generates more clean electricity from the same source of geothermal steam thanks to modified turbines and steam gas ejectors.

By reducing the demand for fossil fuel generation, this means that the Gunung Salak project mitigates approximately 113,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions every year.

The geothermal plant also supplies over 213,000 MWh of clean energy to the local grid on average each year.

The Gunung Salak geothermal facility supplies 213,959 MWh to the local grid each year, on average

The surrounding Mount Halimun Salak National Park is home to native wildlife such as the endangered West Javan gibbon, Javan eagle and the Javan leopard.

The park also plays an important role in supporting regional economic development, creating opportunities for ecotourism, research and horticultural activities such as orchid cultivation.

On the day, our team was impressed with the way that the Gunung Salak facility operates without compromising the surrounding national parklands.

Guided by local conservation officers on our site visit, we saw the lush surroundings of the national park and native wildlife such as the Javan eagle – living proof of this.

Local conservation officers inside the Gunung Salak project area with Mount Halimun Salak National Park in the backdrop

During the site visit, the team from Indonesia Power explained how geothermal technology works; hot water reservoirs underground collect at the earth’s surface in the form of steam, which is used to drive turbines for the production of energy.

In the power plant’s central room display area, we saw the facility’s process flows and major equipment that perform this function.

The South Pole marketing team with Indonesia Power employees inside the central control room

The surrounding region is home to various exotic and rare species of orchid, so it was only fitting that our visit concluded with a ceremonial orchid planting with Indonesia Power.

Ceremonial orchid planting with Indonesia Power

The next stop on our field trip was a visit to a nearby school for a learning workshop on climate change with students from the local community.

SMK Nurul Bayan is a vocational high school whose students’ education is supported by Indonesia Power under a CSR program run by the Gunung Salak project.

This is just one of the wider positive impacts that the project creates for the local community beyond simple emissions reductions.

Our visit to SMK Nurul Bayan high school was extremely rewarding for both the students, who were keen to practise their English, and also for our team as we heard some truly novel ideas for tackling climate change from these bright young minds.

South Pole and Indonesia Power's workshop on climate change with local high school students

The field trip to Gunung Salak was the icing on the cake for an enormously successful 2018 Marketing Retreat.

But more importantly, it highlighted the value of our projects – not just in terms of emissions reductions, but for the deeper positive contributions they make to local communities.

None of this would be possible without the passion and expertise of our South Pole teams, and not least without the support of our clients and partners – because of your support, our Gunung Salak geothermal project continues to operate.

What does this mean?

Jobs for 32 local people; educational partnerships and programs benefiting hundreds of local school students; and a reliable source of clean, renewable geothermal power for the Indonesian grid, helping to diversify and decarbonise the country’s electricity mix and foster sustainable development.

From all of us at South Pole, thank you for helping us accelerate the transition to a low-carbon, climate-smart future below 2 degrees!

You can find more information on the Gunung Salak Geothermal Energy project here.


[1] Indonesia Geothermal Association, 2017

[2] The ratification of Law No. 21 of 2014 on Geothermal