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Licensing obstacle blocks wind energy development in Turkey

ISTANBUL – Hürriyet Daily News | 4/26/2010 12:00:00 AM | Xİ CHEN

Slow progress in government licensing is a hurdle to wind energy development in Turkey despite its enormous growth potential in this sector.

A record of 756 wind power plant applications totaling 78,000 megawatts of energy – about twice the existing total energy supply in Turkey, are waiting to be approved by the government since their initial applications in November 2007.

“The technical capacity is there, the investors are ready, all we are waiting for are government licenses.” Tanay Sıdkı Uyar, professor at Marmara University, as well as a vice president of the World Wind Energy Association, told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review.

Uyar, on his way to China to attend the Fourth China International Wind Energy Exhibition and Conference, lasting till Thursday, said Turkey and China are similar in trying to utilize their wind power potential. However, in China there is more government support in legal framework and in providing land and resource to develop wind energy.

The lack of government support had already hindered wind power development in the country in the past. In 2000, about 25 potential sites for wind power projects had been identified and were undergoing evaluation, but none of 17 wind power projects that had received their approvals have proceeded because of an absence of sovereign guarantees.

“The renewable energy support law is waiting in the Turkish Parliament to be approved,” Uyar added, in reference to the underdevelopment of regulatory framework in the sector.

Turkey currently ranks 19th in global wind power capacity, but it could easily be in the top 10, according to Uyar.

[HH] Huge potential

Surrounded by the Black Sea to the north, the Marmara and the Aegean Sea to the west and the Mediterranean Sea to the south, Turkey has huge potential for wind power generation. A study carried out in 2002 concluded that Turkey has a theoretical wind energy potential of nearly 90,000 megawatts. So far only about 1,000 megawatts capacity wind farms are in operation in Turkey, generating less than 0.5 percent of total electricity consumed. In wind power, pioneer countries include Denmark, which has one-fifth of its energy consumption generated from wind.

Turkey, in contrast, relies heavily on imported energy. Only around 30 percent of the total energy demand is met by domestic sources. The European Wind Energy Association has estimated that Turkey could meet 20 percent of its electricity demand from wind power with a target capacity of 20,000 megawatts, even assuming an average 8 percent annual growth in power consumption.

“More importance has been given to hydropower and coal power plants. They are good for Turkish business, but they are not good for the environment,” Uyar said.

Turkey’s carbon emissions increased by 136 percent between 1996 and 2007, but since there is no requirement for Turkey in the Kyoto Protocol, the government did not have enough incentive to reduce carbon footprints.

Developing the wind sector also helps employment, particularly for local employment, compared to other energy projects. The sector currently employs 550,000 people worldwide, which is expected to double in two years.

The drive to develop wind power capacity is a global trend. According to statistics by the European Wind Energy Association, more new wind power capacity was installed in the EU in 2009 than any other electricity-generating technology. Some 39 percent of all new capacity installed last year was wind power. 

The next World Wind Energy Conference & Exhibition will be held in Istanbul from June 15 to 17 with a special focus on large-scale energy integration.

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