Can a Green-Power Underachiever Reach its Full Potential?
Turkey's national energy grid. Image via Global Energy Network Institute
Although only a paltry 1 percent of Turkey's power is currently provided by renewable sources, the country's sunny and strategic location, large surface area, and young population give it great potential as a "leading green power nation," Levent Bas writes this week on business blog CleanTechies. But how far is that potential from being realized?To be sure, efforts are being made to develop renewable sources to help meet the country's steadily growing energy demands and reduce its dependence on foreign natural gas, which today meets almost half of Turkey's electricity needs.
This spring, a pilot system to produce electricity from the vertical motion of sea waves had its first successful test runs; set up near the Black Sea town of Sakarya, the system has the advantage of being mobile, so it is less likely to disrupt boat traffic and can be moved to wherever the waves are strongest. And a heralded project in the capital of Ankara has started generating power from landfill gas.
Officials, however, are still pursuing the seemingly quixotic construction of the country's first nuclear power plant, along with the controversial hydroelectric Ilısu Dam project. And the status of major renewable industries is decidedly mixed.
Blowing in the wind
According to CleanTechies, Turkey has an estimated wind-power potential of 48,000 MW, but despite a set of government incentives passed in 2006, its actual capacity, though increased almost 10-fold since then, will still be scarcely 1,000 MW by the end of the year.
The country's largest wind farm to date is expected to start producing power this summer; the total of 54 wind turbines due to be installed by 2010 will be able to generate up to 135MW.
Let the sun shine in
"As Turkey is the second sunniest country in Europe after Spain, it can draw 380,000 GWh/y of solar energy--almost double the total electricity consumption of the country in 2008," CleanTechies writes. But while Spain and neighboring Portugal, both countries with similar climes, are rapidly ramping up their solar capacity (not to mention setting wind-power production records), there are only 2 MW worth of photovoltaics installed in Turkey.
Geothermal good in theory
Turkey's potential for geothermal energy is high too, and the country ranks pretty well in its use of the energy source, but once again, production capacity remains extremely low--only 30 MW out of what CleanTechies estimates as a 31,500 MW potential.
Two upcoming developments may help turn some more of this potential into actual power. Within the next couple of years, Turkey, a recent ratifier of the Kyoto Protocol, will be required to reduce greenhouse gases under the next phase of the agreement, an obligation that will create opportunities for renewable-energy entrepreneurs.
And this summer, the Parliamentary General Assembly is expected pass an amendment to the Renewable Energy Resources Law 4628 that will set a feed-in-tariff for renewable energy, essentially an agreement to buy green power at higher than market rates for a set period of time to give the industry a boost.
A win-win situation?
According to Parliamentary Energy Commission head Soner Aksoy, "energy companies are waiting for this new law in order to move ahead with their investment in Turkey, a place with many advantages for them.... [W]hen this draft becomes law, it will transform Turkey into a base for investment in renewable energy. Both investors and Turkey will be winners here."
Though the price would still not be competitive against natural gas--or the renewable energy being produced in other European countries--CleanTechies calls it "the first serious step towards setting a long-term purchase price incentive for renewable energy producers" and says the move bodes well for the sector, where savvy "investors are already beginning to position themselves," and that these and other developments are "pushing the country onto the right track."
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