Solar energy from coal mines can sustain 7 mln homes in Turkey: Study
Approximately half of Turkey’s open-cast coal mines are suitable for conversion to solar farms, which would boost the country’s solar capacity by 170 percent and produce enough electricity to power some 6.9 million homes, an international report has said.
The “Solar Potential of Coal Sites in Turkey” report published by Europe Beyond Coal on March 23 comes as countries across Europe look for ways to rapidly scale up renewable energy capacity, also in the context of the invasion of Ukraine and surging fossil fuel prices.
“In a fortuitous arc of history, the mines that have provided the coal, which has so damaged our climate and communities, can play a vital role in decarbonizing our energy systems and tackling the climate crisis,” said Duygu Kutluay, campaigner for “Europe Beyond Coal.”
“Turkey has recently upped its climate ambitions by ratifying the Paris Agreement and setting a net zero goal. The sooner we start delivering on these targets, the greater the benefits will be for our health and our economy, which was hit hard by last year’s climate change-induced wildfires,” he stated. “Converting our open-cast coal mines to solar farms would cut our annual CO2 emissions by an equivalent amount to approximately 50 million passengers flying from Istanbul and Rome. It’s precisely the sort of energy plan we should be adopting.”
According to Bahadır Turhan, the chairman of the board at Solar3GW, this study “confirms that countries with large open-cast coal mines should be viewing them as renewable energy transition assets.”
“They have a cost advantage over virgin plots as they come ready equipped with much of the necessary infrastructure required to host solar installations, and when you kit them out with advanced battery storage systems, they’re able to consistently deliver a base load of cheap, clean, fossil-free energy. We really should be capitalizing on them,” Turhan said.
Onur Akgül, climate and energy project responsible at Greenpeace Mediterranean, highlighted that converting open-cast coal mining sites would significantly lower energy costs, which are surging courtesy of global fossil-fuel market volatility.
“We’d also see enormous improvements in air quality and public health, and would be protecting our natural environment from the direct impacts of mining, while helping ward off the worst impacts of the climate crisis, such as wildfires and floods,” Akgül underlined.
Tanyeli Behiç Sabuncu, WWF-Turkey climate and energy program manager pointed out Turkey’s 2053 target. “One-fourth of Turkey’s total greenhouse gas emissions originate from coal, leading to premature deaths and exacerbating the climate crisis,” Sabuncu said. “If we are sincere in our goal of being net zero by 2053, we must urgently plan the exit from coal.”
When asked what Turkey would gain after transforming the coal sites, Barış Eceçelik, board member at the Ekosfer Association, said, “This would produce 19 billion kilowatt-hours of fossil-free electricity.”
“That’s equivalent to a third of the electricity Turkey produced from hard coal and imported coal in 2021. Turkey is a sleeping solar giant! We really need to wake up to this potential.”
Europe Beyond Coal is an alliance of civil society groups working to ensure a just transition to a fossil-free, fully renewables-based European energy sector.
“We devote our time and resources to this independent campaign because we are committed to seeing a European energy system that protects people, nature and our global climate,” the group said on their website.