- A report by civil society groups and international organizations sees immense potential for solar power capacity in Turkey’s open-pit coal mining regions
- It can host 13.19 GW solar generating 19.08 GWh annually, enough to replace 10.5 GW of coal power capacity being serviced by these mines
- This can generate new jobs, attract investments to various industries and minimize economic hit to the regions due to this energy transition
- The report suggests measures for Turkey to move in this direction, including by prioritizing solar and storage facilities, and incentives
Turkey can accommodate 13,189 MW of solar power capacity if it decides to repurpose open-pit coal mines that presently supply coal to coal power plants with a total capacity of 10,495 MW, according to a report by Solar3GW commissioned by Europe Beyond Coal, CAN Europe, Eksofer, WWF-Turkey, Greenpeace Mediterranean Foundation, 350.org, Climate Change Policy and Research Association, and Yuva Association.
The report titled Solar Potential of Coal Sites in Turkey by these various civil society groups and international organizations estimates the total solar power generation capacity of this 13,189 MW would result in an output of 19,079 GWh annually, enough to meet electricity needs of 6.9 million households.
This clean electricity potential is estimated to be generated by using solar modules with 22% power conversion efficiency. Close to 10 acres of land for 1 MW solar capacity was the estimate by the writers.
Similarly, replacing these open-pit coal mines with solar installations can remove 12.4 million tons of CO2 emissions annually. “Making use of this potential by prioritizing the involvement of local people in the decision-making processes, as well as the protection of ecosystems, will facilitate Turkey’s achievement of its goal to reach carbon neutrality by 2053,” reads the report.
For the purpose of this study, the analysts excluded south facing locations with more than 20% inclination, north facing locations with more than 5% inclination or those with water bodies.
Mining sites at Çan, Çan 2, Bolu-Göynük, Kangal, Seyitömer, Çayırhan, Orhaneli, Çatalağzı, Soma-B, Soma, So – ma-Kolin, Polat, Tufanbeyli, Tunçbilek, Yatağan, Ye – niköy, Yeniköy-Kemerköy, Çumra Termik, Çumra, Afşin-Elbistan A, Afşin Elbistan B, Silopi, were included in the report.
Explaining the rationale behind picking open-pit mining sites that feed 22 coal power plants in Turkey, the report says these locations offer large open spaces that are prime for repurposing, and have a cost advantage in transition from coal to solar power as these are already connected to substation hubs and transmission lines.
Solar power industry will also attract new investors and industries, including manufacturing that will create more jobs, ‘minimizing any economic hit to these regions because of the closure of the coal mines’.
The report writers suggest a slew of measures that can help achieve the transition, as follows:
- Establishment of a coal exit plan and closing schedule for existing power plants.
- Solar along with storage installations to be considered in locations where grid balance is considered critical, while examining regional grid investment plans.
- Prioritize support for solar and storage plants via Value Added Tax (VAT) exemptions or investment incentive certificates, instead of purchasing guarantees.
- Solar power production, installation and investments need to be supported while prioritizing local needs and ecosystems.
The report in Turkish language is available for free download on Europe Beyond Coal’s website.
At the end of 2021, Turkey’s total installed solar power capacity exceeded 7.8 GW while natural gas and hydropower remain the largest energy generation sources here with 25.57 GW and 23.28 GW, respectively. Coal power plants’ capacities represent 8.99 GW out of the country’s total electricity mix of 99.82 GW (see Turkey Installed 1.14 GW Solar In 2021).