Thursday, January 07, 2010

Ladies of Straw Mountain (Samandağ)

Dear Colleagues, Dear Energy Professional,

On 5 December 2009, I participated in an Energy Forum in Hatay province, which had been organised by the Chamber of Turkish Electrical engineers and was held at the Iskenderun Town Municipality hall.

The small town council meeting hall was shaped like an amphitheatre. The energy forum was open to all interested parties.

I presented a speech on investment evaluations of new imported coal firing thermal power plants in the region, especially on the coast of Iskenderun Bay, on behalf of the Chamber of Turkish Mechanical Engineers.

One section of the audience seats was occupied by the Ladies of Straw Mountain (Samandağ), from the deep south of Hatay province.

They have many years of historical heritage. Their region produces various agricultural products and is known for its beautiful seashores. Now the good old peaceful days are over.

New wind power investments have been made in their region to generate renewable energy from the strong winds present year round.

The ladies gave their opinions at every given opportunity and stated their opposition to "Wind power plants".

For veterans of the energy business, it was quite surprising – even shocking – to see such a local reaction to clean renewable energy investments. We must generate more electricity to provide a better life for our children; we have been starving from low generation of electricity for decades.

We all feel that we will need all types of power plants in the future – thermal, hydro, renewable wind, solar, even nuclear – provided that we have maximised the scope of local engineering and the participation of local contracting companies and local employment. We all feel that if there is no local employment opportunity in a new energy investment, then we do not need that investment.

I understand the public reaction to thermal power plants since we do not have many good plants in operation. They all pollute the environment and we do not have any cure for rehabilitation other than privatisation.

I understand the public reaction to nuclear power plants, since we have high concern for nuclear pollution, uncontrolled nuclear waste as well as a high sensitivity for operational controls.

I understand the public reaction to the hydropower plants that are planned to be constructed on the beautiful highland creeks of the Eastern Black Sea.

But I cannot understand the public reaction to wind power plants, which are presumed to be the last resort of clean renewable energy.

The ladies of Straw Mountain are against new wind power plants in their land because they make too much noise, they kill migrating birds, they negatively interfere with agricultural activities, and they create pollution in their touristic and beautiful seashores.

Now let me ask, how shall we generate electricity? We all want more electricity in our houses, in our workshops, in our industrial plants, in our schools, hospitals, malls for illumination, to feed our engines, to run our machines, to use our computers, to care for our patients, to teach our children.

Who will pay the burden of environmental pollution, noise, and adverse effects on agriculture, air and water pollution?

The ladies of Straw Mountain do not want wind power plants. They want their terms to be agreed to. Investors should not make noise, they should not kill migrating birds, they should not have adverse effects on agricultural activities, they should not create pollution in touristic areas. They should keep their EIA application promises during the many years of operation in the long term.

If we have a thermal power plant investment, the investor should employ the local engineering capability, employ local contracting for construction and site installation, design with high dust collecting efficiency dust filters. They should limit SO2, NOx gas emissions. They should install flue gas desulphurisation facilities at all times. They should install carbon capture and storage facilities to reduce global warming. And they should consider more comprehensive new designs, such as Integrated Gasification Combined cycle designs.

If an investment project does not create jobs for local engineering firms, if it does not create jobs for the local qualified workers, if it does not give contracting opportunities to local companies, then we do NOT need that project.

On the other hand, we know that we cannot get anywhere by saying "we do not want power plants." We need more energy, more electricity generation. So we need a consensus between the local people and investors. The expression "We do not want Chinese, but we want Germans or American or Koreans" is neither sensible nor logical.

We have our own solution. Foreigners cannot solve our problems. We need to have more qualified engineering staff, we need to have more hardware and software to design our thermal power plants now and nuclear power plants in future when we have reached that point in our engineering capability.

Otherwise we cannot survive in this difficult geography.

Why should we install wind power plants in Straw Mountain, on our beautiful shores, but not on the high mountains like Erciyes, Mount Ararat or inland Anatolia?

The issue is that the air is so thin at high altitudes that it cannot turn the wind propeller properly to produce at full capacity. Wind can turn the propeller at high altitudes, but it cannot generate the capacity that the plants are designed to handle.

You can generate maybe 500 Kw from a wind power plant that was originally designed to generate 1.5 Mwe. So the unit investment price jumps from $2000 USD per installed kw to maybe $6000 USD per installed kw power generation. That is surely not feasible. There is no point to invest with such a high initial cost.

When you look at a wind map of Turkey, you find high availability (more than 20%) regions in the Straw Mountains, Alaçatı, Çeşme, Çanakkale, and Bandırma coastal regions. Not inland, not in the high mountains.

In Turkey we should construct our local coal firing thermal power plants at the mouths of mines, and our combined cycle power plants at the points where natural gas pipelines enter our country in Samsun, Igdir, Edirne, Tekirdag (LNG), Izmir (LNG).

We should construct our imported new coal firing thermal power plants in Iskenderun Bay, since there would be no natural blockages of Turkish channels. We can construct our nuclear power plant on our Black Sea coast, maybe in Sinop when we are ready with our engineering capability.

Who can invest? At what capacity can they invest? What criteria should they follow? We should all be in the decision making process. We as Chambers of Turkish engineers, NGOs of local regions in the investment plants, as well as all public institutions, should all be in the picture.

This investment decision cannot be left to the mercy of foreign designers, foreign investors, foreign financing institutions, foreign companies. Cheap design promotions, cheap contracts are not suitable since they have short life spans, they wear fast and become scrap soon.

We need the participation and contributions of our ladies of Straw Mountain at all times to review and monitor the projects for power plant investments in our country.

A Happy and Prosperous New Year to you all.

Haluk Direskeneli, Hamburg based Energy Analyst


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