Renewable-Energy Cars Heat Up in Turkey

Science, Industry and Technology Minister Nihat Ergün test-drives a solar-powered car at a solar vehicle competition in the Turkish city of Izmir.

A strange array of vehicles were seen speeding around Izmir, Turkey last week, as the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TÜBİTAK) hosted its first Alternative Energy Vehicle Races in the sunny Aegean coastal city. Thirty-eight teams entered the solar car races, while 20 teams brought vehicles to the hydrogen car competition.

The event inspired Nihat Ergün, of Turkey’s Ministry for Science, Industry and Technology, to declare that the government will up its investments in renewable vehicles in coming years.

Vague promises from the government

Though Ergün expressed enthusiasm for developing renewable energies at the TÜBİTAK races, the government’s material support for these technologies has been lackluster so far.

Ergün’s ministry recently published a Strategy Document for Turkey’s industrial sector between 2011 and 2014. While the paper sets some concrete goals for that time period, such as the development of Turkey’s first automotive brand, it stays vague on renewable energy targets despite frequently mentioning the need for a cleaner energy economy.

The document mentions old laws that have been passed to support renewable energy in Turkey, but does not point out that these laws have so far only resulted in subsidies that are too low to make solar and wind power competitive in the wider energy marketplace.

Recent reshufflings of the government ministries, though, could improve the prospects for renewable energy in Turkey. In June, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced that the former Ministry of Industry and Trade would lose “Trade” and add “Science and Technology” to its name.

As a result of this change, Ergün said in Izmir, his ministry will be able to focus on research and development projects more than it used to.

Promising activity from international bodies, private sector

While the government slowly begins to appreciate Turkey’s abundant renewable resources and technological potential, private companies and international organizations are already taking advantage of them.

The United Nations’ International Centre for Hydrogen Energy Technologies, for example, has already been holding competitions for hydrogen vehicles for several years now. Solar power is widely popular at the grassroots level, as evinced by the omnipresence of solar water heaters and small PV arrays on Turkish rooftops. And Turkish investor MetCap Developments recently contracted a renewable integrated combined cycle power plant from General Electric, the world’s first application of this unprecedentedly efficient power-producing technology.

The impressive turnout by university teams at the TÜBİTAK races suggests that Turkey’s next generation of scientists and engineers will be actively engaged in bringing their country into a cleaner energy future. Let’s hope the government follows their lead.

:: Today’s Zaman

Read more about renewable energy in Turkey:

GP Exclusive Interview: Turkey Beginning To Lay Infrastructure For Hydrogen Economy

World’s First Integrated Renewables Combined Cycle Plant To Be Built in Turkey

Europe’s Biggest Solar Farm To Be Built in Turkey

Image via Today’s Zaman

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