More than half of Turkey’s energy requirement has been traditionally supplied by imports, which largely consist of gas from Russia. As Turkish dependence on Russian fuel limits the country’s options in foreign policy and domestic economics, and as fossil fuels contribute to global environmental problems, diversifying Turkey’s energy profile is essential to the future prosperity of the country.
Promoting the development and implementation of renewable energy is, of course, a critical mission for the future of the planet, but may benefit Turkey disproportionately. As the Turkish administration has recognized the potential for alternative energy to reduce the country’s dependence on foreign oil, as well as the country’s naturally endowed potential for renewables, Turkey’s alternative energy sector is gaining momentum. Recent measures including the liberalization of the electricity market, feed-in tariffs, and capital subsidies, grants, and rebates have moved Turkey towards the realization of its renewable energy potential.
Turkey’s potential in this regard also happens to be greater than most, as the country’s landscape and geology are ideal for hydroelectric, wind, geothermal, and solar energy production.
Many large industrial firms—locally based and foreign—have been drawn to Turkey by both its natural endowment and the government’s progressive policies in this regard. The country’s most recent major initiative in the pursuit of greater renewable energy was prepared by the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources (MENR) and was titled “The Strategic Plan.” It set an ambitious goal of supplying 30% of the country’s energy requirements using renewables—and investing 2% of the country’s GDP in renewables—by the year 2023. Due to earlier efforts, renewable consumption in Turkey (excluding hydroelectric) increased tenfold between 2006 and 2010, and the country hopes to continue this trend. In July 2016, aiming to assist this development, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the International Finance Corporation announced a $200 million investment in Turkey’s Afken Renewable Energy to help fund hydro and solar plants.
The International Energy Agency has predicted that be 2040, renewables will replace coal and natural gas as the largest supplier of global electricity. This prediction is even more exciting considering the rise of electrically-powered vehicles and other machines relative to those driven by fossil fuels. As the prominence, practicality, and efficiency of renewable energy production—and electrically-powered machines—grow, Turkey will be on the side of the side of history.
Most hydroelectric power plants are dams which can control the flow of water from a lake, and which run this water through turbines to produce electrical energy.
Hydroelectric energy makes up a majority of Turkey’s renewable energy production, with 22,289 megawatts (MW) produced in 2013. At the end of the same year, according to the MENR, “41% of the [hydroelectric] potential which is said to be economic, was in operation, and 27% was in the process of being built (including private sector projects).” As infrastructure projects continue, and as technologies advance, this capacity will certainly grow. Turkey’s mountainous landscape and position between three seas are ideal for such development, and the projects currently in progress are expected to add another 15,000MW to Turkey’s hydroelectric output. There are currently 172 dams/hydroelectric power plants in operation, 148 under construction, and 1,418 projects available in the country.
Large wind turbines, which now dot many rural landscapes, will spin as wind flows through them. This spinning powers an electric generator which sends electricity into powerlines.
Wind is the third largest source of renewable energy in Turkey, and produced 2,760 MW in 2013. While this is just over 12% of the energy produced by hydroelectric plants, it is an impressive figure considering the country’s wind production was merely 20 MW eight years earlier. This tremendous increase will likely continue, and the Turkish government has a target of increasing Turkey’s wind capacity twenty times by 2020. With a total of 1,330 wind turbines currently spinning in Turkey, this source saves the country $500 million which would have been spent on natural gas.
In July, 2016 LM Wind Power announced that it had broken ground for a large wind turbine blade factory in Bergama, Turkey. In addition to producing these key parts for wind energy, and providing 450 skilled technical jobs, this development will make it cheaper and easier to build new wind turbines in Turkey.
Geothermal energy is heat energy rising from below the Earth’s crust, which can be manipulated to heat and cool buildings, or to produce electrical energy. As temperatures below ten feet underground range from 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit during both winter and summer, air ducts running below this depth can help keep the temperature in buildings moderate. To produce electrical energy, on the other hand, most geothermal power plants will inject water much deeper underground, where temperatures are much hotter. The water boils and is extracted to power a turbine in a similar fashion to early steam engines.
Turkey is fortunate enough to have the seventh greatest geothermal energy potential in the world, and the country’s installed geothermal capacity was 11,766 MW in 2013, though only 400MW went to the production of electricity. This level of geothermal application has only been achieved by China, the USA, Sweden, and Turkey, making Turkey a leader in the global application of geothermal energy production. According to MENR, “The search efforts for geothermal energy have become more dynamic in recent years, and as of the end of 2013, the Mine Detection and Search (MDS) General Directorate, which is an affiliated organization of our Ministry, has carried out a total of 576 explorations across 328.711 m. From this 227 fields have been discovered.”
Solar energy can be converted to electricity in a number of ways. The solar panels which have begun to appear on the roofs of homes and apartment buildings use a very specific array of chemical substances—called photovoltaic solar energy systems—which will readily free electrons when exposed to sunlight, creating an electric current. Most solar power plants, on the other hand, consist of an array of mirrors which direct sunlight at a single tower, or at rows of tubes which run along the panels. This concentrated light can produce scorching temperatures which turn water into steam. As with geothermal energy production, this steam powers a turbine to produce electricity. The steam is then compressed back to water and reused to complete the cycle.
Solar energy production in Turkey at the moment is only 266MW, but there is room for an incredible expansion. Not only are personal solar panels become cheaper and more efficient globally, but Turkey possesses a high solar energy potential, as displayed by a solar energy map prepared by the Turkish government. The Turkish government thus plans to produce 3000MW per year using solar energy by 2023.