Justin Vela in Istanbul -
Turkey is trying to push on with its quest to raise domestic energy production, especially of the green variety. The tiny village of Akbiyik, situated in the country's Western Bursa province, is at the forefront of this.
In February 2009, the villagers of Akbiyik completed the construction of a 50-kilowatt windmill designed to power a pump that brings water to their homes and fields. However, legislation that would allow the unlicensed windmill to connect to the public electricity grid had not yet been ratified by parliament, so there it sat on a hill above Akbiyik, switched off. The villagers settled in to wait.
Turkey currently imports the vast majority of its energy, swelling a massive current account deficit that is expected to hit 9.4% of GDP by the end of the year. As part of reforms meant to strengthen Turkey's traditional boom-bust economy, the government is aiming to increase its domestic energy production through a variety of means that include nuclear, hydroelectric, solar and wind.
The process has been slow going. Much of the necessary equipment must be imported from abroad. Legislation that became effective in January promoted wind turbine equipment produced in Turkey and a higher tariff of $0.73 (€0.54) per kilowatt hour as an incentive. Many companies say the tariff still needs to be raised to justify investments and that it will take several years before a substantial amount of equipment in produced in Turkey. However, some companies are finding a way, as Akbiyik's story proves.
Seeking a less expensive method of powering the village water pump, village headman Mustafa Cicek first contacted Ankara-based Soyut Construction and Engineering in 2008. "Mustafa reached us," says Ali Colak, a project manager at Soyut. "He said, 'We need an electrical source!'"
Soyut had been manufacturing windmills since 2000 and designed a TRY210,000 (€85,800) project for a 50-kilowatt windmill to power Akbiyik's water pump. Cicek took the project to the Bursa provincial administration, which immediately agreed to sponsor the project, seeing it in line with the government's goals. The administration gave Akbiyik residents a grant of TRY140,000 (€57,200), with the villagers contributing an additional TRY70,000 (€28,600) to the project.
In July, the renewable energy legislation was again amended, allowing Akbiyik residents to finally connect their windmill to the local power grid. However, a final hurdle remains: the legislation will have to be amended again in order for the village to sell the excess power from its windmill to the local electricity company. Colak expects the change to come by the end of the year - an expectation echoed by the Bursa administration, which tells bne that Akbiyik is "the pioneer project for other villages."
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