Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – Europe’s biggest solar farm has come online, and its location is a surprise. It is near Konya, Turkiye (Turkey).
Konya, a city of 1.4 million, is known for its religious conservatism. It is the site of the tomb of the famed mystic Jalal al-Din Rumi (d. 1273). Nowadays it is also a significant provincial manufacturing center, making everything from textiles to auto parts.
Rumi spoke a good deal about the divine light. There will now be another kind of light in the area. In the nearby small town of Karapinar (pop. 35,000), a huge new solar facility went live on Tuesday, with a nameplate capacity of 1.3 gigawatts. Run by Kalyon Enerji, it had originally been a joint project with a South Korean firm, Hanwha Energy, which withdrew before it was completed. Its 3 million solar panels will provide enough electricity to meet the needs of 2 million people. It is producing electricity for just over 6 cents a kilowatt hour, which is competitive with fossil fuels — especially given their price spike because of the Ukraine war.
Where the solar panels came from is also a big story. They were manufactured by the Kalyon Solar Energy Technologies Production Company, in Ankara, in partnership with the China Electronic Technology Group Corp. The factory has upped its capacity to 2 million panels a year.
Turkiye is now the world’s third-largest solar panel manufacturer, behind China and Cambodia. It has outstripped South Korea in this regard.
It is expected that in 2023 Turkiye will add 1 gigawatt of new wind power capacity and 1 gigawatt of new solar.
President Tayyip Erdogan is making his ability to provide the country with energy during the Ukraine crisis a pillar of his presidential campaign. Virtually all of Turkiye’s coal is imported from Russia and it has doubled in cost in the past year.
Turkiye as a country spans Europe and the Middle East. It is a member of NATO and yet has extensive trade relations with countries like Iran, Iraq and Egypt. It is the world’s 19th largest economy by nominal GDP, with a gross national product of a little over a $1 trillion a year.
Turkiye is also emerging as a major force in green energy. This development is paradoxical because it still uses a lot of coal and the government is trying as hard as it can to develop oil and gas fields in the Mediterranean. Turkiye also, however, has 28.5 gigawatts of hydroelectricity, accounting for 30.3% of its electricity.
Its major sources of energy are: 30.3% hydroelectric, 24.3% fossil gas, 20.9% coal, 11% wind, 9.4% solar, 1.6% geothermal and 2.5% other sources.
Meanwhile, wind and solar capacity is growing. In 2022, some 11% of Turkish electricity came from wind, and another 5% derived from solar. Turkiye’s wind power output is greater than, e.g., France, and is quite respectable in European terms. However, its solar sector has been a bit anemic, even compared to some European countries that don’t have nearly as much sun. That is now changing, in a big way.