Solar energy is in STFA’s ‘second life’

Solar energy is in STFA’s ‘second life’

If you drop by Istanbul Modern these days, you will come across what I would call an extraordinary exhibition.

The exhibition I am talking about is not “Modernity? Perspectives from France and Turkey,” which opened last week with the participation of French Foreign Trade Minister Nicole Bricq.

The exhibition I am talking about is “KM.441- Firsts.” The name comes from the code name of of STFA’s first construction project - a cement bridge, km.441. STFA is the giant Turkish construction firm that has built many “firsts” in the history of Turkey’s public works, and will celebrate its 75th year this year.

The exhibition is like a short summary of Turkey’s development. The two founders of STFA, both engineers with master’s degrees, Sezai T?keş and Fevzi Akkaya, set out in 1938 with huge dreams of taking part in the reconstruction of a country that did not then even possess proper roads.

With their vision, with their innovative practices in the construction field, they have, to a great extent, fulfilled their dreams.

STFA has completed numerous projects, from Turkey’s first 154 kilovolt energy transmission line to the first submarine pen and port in Bart?, from the first marina in Ku?das to the second bridge on the Bosphorus.

Since Fevzi Akkaya was hooked on photography, he photographed each construction from the beginning to the end and thus also formed the first archive in both STFA’s and Turkey’s construction sector.

The company also had the honor of undertaking Turkey’s first contract abroad in 1972, in Libya.
I saw the exhibition together with STFA’s new CEO, Mehmet Ali Neyzi. Before he transferred to STFA, Neyzi worked for many years at Koç Holding and afterward at Vestas, one of world’s leading wind turbine producers. We talked about the “second life” of the group, which was badly affected by the 2001 crisis.

Neyzi reminded me of the headlines, when Sezai T?keş died in 1998, which read: “The Bridge and the ports lost their parent.”

With Sezai T?keş’s death, followed by the 2001 crisis, the company sold a portion of its shares to Hong Kong-based fund management company ADM Capital. STFA has today sold a major part of its companies and is now focusing on the construction and machinery sectors, as well as energy.

“In 2013, we have road projects in Oman worth $300 million, in Morocco $360 million and a port project in Kuwait worth $450 million. In Qatar, we will expand a port for $300 million, but what excite me are the energy projects that will hold a significant place in STFA’s ‘second life,’” Neyzi said.

Their energy projects have a wide span, from distribution of natural gas to building wind and solar power stations.

The wind plant that STFA will erect together with the British RES company in Thrace will be 120 megawatts.

In solar energy, STFA has signed a deal with the South Korean Hyundai Solar Company. “We are the representatives of solar panels Hyundai is producing. The panels have a 25-year guarantee. Together with Hyundai, we are going to build ‘turnkey’ solar power stations, the first of which will be 410 kilowatts in İzmir,” Neyzi said.

It is very important - especially for a person like me who defends solar energy - that STFA, just like another leading company in the construction sector, Tekfen, is focusing on solar energy.

In Turkey, where a nuclear adventure will start in the coming months in Mersin Akkuyu, the fact that the country’s established firms are entering this sector could create a fast lane for solar energy.

According to WWF Turkey’s World Solar Atlas, the entire electrical needs of Turkey could be met with solar panels to be installed on an area as big as the Atatürk Dam.

Considering this, the question that arises in one’s mind is indeed: “Why nuclear?”