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Village mosque joins anti–nuclear campaign in Turkey

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet | 11/26/2010 12:00:00 AM | AYTEN SERİN

As part of a Greenpeace project against nuclear power plants, 'The sun rises from Akkuyu' group has installed solar energy in a mosque in a village in southern Turkey. The panels were originally planned for a school, but the group could not get permission from the state

Locals in a Mediterranean village who are scheduled to becomes neighbors to a nuclear power plant have converted their village mosque to run on solar power to demonstrate that renewable energy can work as a clean, healthy electricity option.

Local villagers are frustrated and fed up with the nuclear plant project that has been hanging over them like Damocles’ sword for 37 years at Büyükeceli in Akkuyu Bay near the eastern Mediterranean town of Mersin.

The 70-year-old village headman Kemal Budak, who has served Büyükeceli for 34 years, said they are definitely against a nuclear plant in the area. “Our youngsters left the village for Silifke, Antalya and Mersin in the belief that the nuclear power plant will be built.

“The state didn’t want to invest in farming or tourism here. We are in this struggle because we cannot be certain of our future. At least, our children will not someday tell us, ‘You left us a dumpsite.’”

Greenpeace, one of the most powerful opponents of nuclear energy, has decided to launch a pilot project in Büyükeceli. Activists of the organization, wearing t-shirts saying, “The sun rises from Akkuyu,” tried to show how easy it was to set up a solar panel after only 10 days of work.

Greenpeace volunteers have been explaining the risks involved in nuclear energy as well as the possibilities for producing clean energy, said Gülçün Şahin from Greenpeace.

 “We went on and on to explain, but we saw that nothing was changing. So we decided to take a concrete step. We drafted a pilot project to build a solar energy panel for common use in the region.”

The intention was to place the panels in the village school, but when the necessary permission was not given, the locals decided to install 10 photovoltaic panels in the town mosque, said Şahin, Greenpeace Mediterranean’s communication officer.

Greenpeace supplied the panels. The system has a 2.25 kilowatt capacity, enough to meet the power needs of the entire mosque. On average, 1,000 kilowatts can supply electricity to as many as 300 households per year. The mosque in Büyükeceli will transfer electricity to the grid, but cannot earn money from this yet because there is no legal regulation for it in Turkey. Supported by the Solar Energy Industrialists Association, or GENSED, activists, volunteers, technicians and trainers worked together with the villagers to set up the solar panel. It was completed Nov. 14 with a ceremony where the invitees drank orange juice squeezed with electricity generated from the panel.

[HH] Anatolia, sun country

Turkey is a rich country in terms of sunlight; its solar potential is high especially in southern provinces such as Mersin. Retired teacher Mehmet Ali Yılmaz, 65, of Büyükeceli lamented the wasted time and energy. “Anatolia is a sun country. Germany sees the sun for a total of 1,800 hours yearly. But in Turkey this figure jumps up to 3,800 hours. Why should we not benefit from it?”

Greenpeace Mediterranean Project Coordinator Alidost Numan said: “We want to call attention to the fact that it is possible to protect nature and increase job opportunities by using clean energy. In the last decade, Germany employed 340,000 people in the renewable energy sector. But only 30,000 employees are in the nuclear energy sector.” If the government provides incentives for photovoltaic systems instead of building this nuclear plant, a total of 120,000 brand new, clean and qualified jobs would be created, according to Numan. “The Energy Revolution Report we prepared together with the European Renewable Energy Council, or EREC, indicates that we could generate clear energy equal to the production of 17 nuclear plants in 2020, at a lower cost.”

[HH] Incentives needed for clean energy

Turkey needs the “Renewable Energies Law” immediately, said Numan, adding the following should be done for speedier access to clean energy:

* Priority linkage right to electricity grids should be guaranteed for renewable energy sources.

* The licensing process should be sped up and facilitated.

* Feed-in tariffs should be introduced. Feed-in tariffs for solar energy should be set between 20 and 25 eurocents, as it has been applied in successful examples worldwide.

* Incentives should be moved from dirty old technologies to renewable technology.

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