Nuclear pushing wind out of Turkey

With thousands of megawatt of wind potential and 185 MW waiting for final approval, wind power could go far in Turkey. But wind advocates fear the government is not only deliberately delaying development to favour its first nuclear project, but that it does not understand a brand new energy act that encourages wind development in Turkey.

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With thousands of MW wind potential and 185 MW waiting for a rubber stamp, wind power could go far in Turkey if it were not due to the government apparently being blinded to a great source of renewable energy by the technological glare of nuclear power

As Turkey teeters on the edge of a decision to build its first nuclear power station, wind energy is caught in the dilemma. The potential is there, but wind advocates fear the government is not only deliberately delaying development to favour its nuclear project, but that it does not understand a brand new energy act that encourages wind development in Turkey.

"Turkey has a grand wind resource if only it could get a proper start," according to Metin Atamer, whose company, Atamer, was involved with building the country's first wind farm, a 7.2 MW project from 1998, and which now has another 30 MW in the pipeline. Atamer is also chairman of RASSIAD, the Turkish Wind Energy Investors Association in Ankara. He says a government committee has indicated that about 5000 MW of wind energy could be built within five years and feasibility studies have been completed for about 2500 MW, which could be installed by 2003. His company alone has wind measuring ongoing at 104 sites, charting wind speeds of 6-11 m/s at ten metres height.

Today, only about 9 MW of wind plant operates in Turkey while 185 MW in eight projects awaits final approval. If wind energy is allowed to fulfil its promise, it could help to bury the nuclear plans forever, says Atamer.

These plans have been in the works for 30 years and relate to the Turkish government's pressing worry that a growing national energy gap needs to be filled. In 1999, consumption was 117 TWh, but the country's own 22,000 MW of power stations -- nearly half of which is hydro -- delivered just 115 TWh. The remainder was imported from Iran, Georgia and Bulgaria. In 2000, consumption is expected to grow to 127 TWh.

A new nuclear reactor is one way of cutting imports and closing the gap. The government is considering a 1400 MW or a 2900 MW plant, costing between $2.4 billion and $4.5 billion, which could be on-line by 2007. Among those jockeying for the contract are Britain's Westinghouse Electric, the Canadian AECL and the Franco-German consortium Nuclear Power. The government has postponed dates for granting the contract three times. Indeed, last month the Turkish financial newspaper, Dunya Gazete, reported that yet another new deadline had been announced -- this time for the March 1. Chairman of Turkish Siemens' board of directors, Arthur Hornfeld, is quoted as saying that the last postponement had cost his company $800,000.

On the sidelines, Turkish and foreign environmental groups are warning about the dangers of earthquakes at the site earmarked for the reactor, Akkuyu. The Ecemis rift is only about 20 kilometres away. Greenpeace points out that a new nuclear plant would only contribute about 3% to the country's electricity supply, while modernisation of the grid and existing power stations plant could save 25% of consumption. It recommends that Turkey save energy and use its wind, hydro and solar resources before considering nuclear development.

Stuck with the minister

So far the wind industry does not have much to show for its efforts to respond to this appeal. Aside from the 7.2 MW project of Vestas machines inaugurated in December 1998 (Windpower Monthly, February 1999), the only other sizeable plant is a 1.5 MW wind cluster at Alacati, near Izmir. Also installed in 1998, it comprises three 500 kW Enercon E40 machines, built by the mixed industrial concern Demirer for the company's own energy supply.

Eight projects are awaiting a concession from the energy ministry (table). They are proposed by six companies: Demirer Holding, Atamer/Interwind, financing company Gucbirligi, engineering design and metal company Asmakinsan, power systems construction company Prokon and a mining company, Mage. It seems the Prokon project may be handicapped by the need for a 24 kilometre cable to the nearest transformer station. The 60 MW of projects for Canakkale may also be hit by lack of grid capacity. A 300 MW gas power station project is apparently planned for the region, which would entail building a new 380 kV cable link, but when this will be is unknown.

"Some projects have been waiting for over six months for the ministry's final signature, even though the power cuts we have had during the last two months demonstrate the need we have for electricity," says Atamer. Power cuts have partly been due to a lack of water in the country's hydro plant.

The delay is not only being met with irritation. It is also feeding rumours that the government is keeping the lid on wind for as long as possible to save the expanding power market for its nuclear project, or for proposed lignite and hydro power stations, both at just over 100 MW and being built in Greece and Bulgaria by Turkish companies to supply the Turkish market. "I don't think the rumours are true because all energies are affected," says Mehmet Hanagasioglu of Interwind, which has a 30 MW project poised in the starting blocks.

At least showing willingness, the energy ministry in September invited investors to investigate wind sites in eight regions for the installation of about 390 MW of wind, but this process has also been criticised for its clumsiness. "This was not an invitation for tenders, as some have thought, but was aimed more at fishing out a new pool of researchers and investors," Atamer says. The ministry has trimmed back applications for 1200 sites to 718, and only 2% of the applicants have any wind development experience, he says. Just 16 projects are to be awarded. Assuming all 718 sites are investigated at a rough cost of $50,000 each, the total costs will be more than $35 million, says Hanagasioglu. "And all this money is to be won back on just 16 projects?" he asks sceptically.

Misunderstood regulation

There is also a feeling that Turkey may not yet be realising the benefits of a new energy act passed in January, says Hanagasioglu. The new law does two things that are important for the wind industry, he explains. First, it allows international mediation over problems that might arise when foreign companies are involved in BOT contracts. This is expected to encourage foreign investors to put their money in Turkish wind projects.

Second, the law allows investors to draw up normal contracts for power generation rather than needing the government's encumbered concession contracts. These contain an implicit licence from the Turkish government to use state power generation resources -- such as coal or lignite -- to carry out an activity on public property. The philosophy behind the concessions goes back to Ottoman times, says Hanagasioglu, and has had complicated all privatised activities, be they in telecommunications, the railways, airlines or energy. The energy law does not, however, allow Build-Operator-Own contracts for energy plant. This means owners must eventually transfer their wind plants to the state.

While the energy law is greeted as progress, it puts wind projects already in the pipeline in a precarious situation. "Our 30 MW project went through the usual procedure of being initialled by the ministry last July and sent to the Supreme Court for examination," says Hanagasioglu. "But then the court's approval and signing at the ministry was postponed -- probably pending a change to constitutional law in August and the passage of the new energy law in January. Now it is not clear whether the old course of action applies, or whether the whole procedure has to be started afresh."

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