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Energy and Environmental Issues: A Comparative Study for Turkey and the U.S.
Sep 1, 2012

Inevitably, energy is one of the key issues currently effecting economic development in much of the modern world. The fact that fossil fuels are non-renewable and have detrimental effects on the environment has lately shifted our focus to alternative resources, such as using wind or solar power. These alternative energy resources have many important advantages, such as being sustainable, renewable, environmentally friendly and clean. The inherent technical, economic and environmental benefits of using renewable energy resources earn them an important role in determining if they are going to be one of the contributors to the future's energy mix, particularly in developing countries. This paper focuses on the various forms of renewable energy, such as wind power, hydropower and solar power, and compares Turkey and the U.S. for their relative standings in their adoption of renewable sources of energy and their intended goals in the future.

Turkey is currently the sixth largest market for electricity in Europe and this demand for energy has made Turkey one of the fastest growing global markets for fuel. The expected energy demand for Turkey by 2020 is expected to be 570 GWh (giga watts per hour) (Demirbas 2005, 615). Today, Turkey pays approximately $50 billion a year to other countries for their high quality oil, gas and coal. If nothing is done to develop alternative sources of energy, it is expected that the cost to import fuel from other countries will cost Turkey a staggering $100 billion in 2020. Fortunately, in 2005, Turkey passed a Renewable Energy Law to bring the country more in line with European Union regulations and standards to meet the growing electricity demand and to diversify sources of energy.

Wind power

Turkey could potentially meet all its total energy needs solely from the use of wind energy. The most attractive sites for wind energy utilization and generation are the Marmara, South East Anatolian and Aegean regions. The first wind energy farm was established in Izmir, Turkey in February 1998 with a 1.5 MW capacity (Hepbasli and Ozgener, 2004). On the other hand, the U.S. started harvesting wind power 17 years before Turkey. We need to keep in mind that the U.S. is on a grand scale when compared to Turkey. It is interesting to see the trends for the usage of wind energy between these two countries. The current electricity production from wind for Turkey is about 433 MW (Megawatts) as compared to 35,000 MW for U.S. While Turkey is targeting to achieve a quarter of its potential, 20,000 MW by 2020, the U.S. is intending to reach 90% of its potential and reach 10x108 MW (Table 1) by 2020.

Table 1: Wind power: Turkey and U.S.

Wind Power Turkey U.S.
Started 1998 1981
Current 433MW 35,000MW
2020 Target 20,000MW 10x108MW
Potential 88,000MW 10x109MW

Solar power

In terms of the potential of solar power, both Turkey and the U.S. are amongst the most propitious countries in the world by having a range of 175- 200 watts per square meter per day (David Wheeler, Global Developments for Future Blog, comment posted on February 19, 2008).

The most advantageous region in Turkey for the harvesting of solar energy is its Southwest due to its geographic location in the Mediterranean. It is quite common to come across solar panels on top of the roofs in Southwestern Turkey. Photovoltaic (PV) systems are currently limited in use in Turkey but they are on the rise. In Silifke, located south central Anatolia (about 200 km away from Adana), a PV system is currently being used to power irrigation pumps. In order to encourage investors to invest their money into the development of solar power in Turkey the government subsidies need be increased and include the current 5.5 euro-cents/KWh feed-in-tariff.

The most common places where you would see heavy solar power usage for everything from day and night lighting to heating the pool in Turkey are in Eco-homes (left), and Solar cities (right).



Solar Power Turkey U.S.    
Avg. Insolation 7.2 hrs/day 5.5 hrs/day
Current direct Heat 290 TMW* 139 TMW
Current PV 300 MW 1,047 MW
2020 Target 20,000 MW 28,000 MW

*The hot water heating system installations cover about 10 Million m2 surface.

What is interesting to note is that currently Turkey is amongst the top five countries in the world in the amount of solar power used to heat their water.


According to the Idaho National Laboratory, approximately 6,000 MWs is the gross power potential of U.S. hydropower, of which only about 16 percent can be developed with economical feasibility. About 76 percent of this potential has already been developed, and the remaining portion is to be developed by 2020. On the other hand, Turkey has a somewhat different scenario where the gross hydropower potential is 435 MW, of which only 29% is economical feasible for development and only 35% of that potential has been developed to this date (Yuksek et al. 2007).

After Turkey declared its support for the Kyoto Protocol, it has given a big push for renewable sources of energy, especially wind and hydropower. With the required regulations passed after Kyoto, and with the more recent Copenhagen Accord, Turkey has adapted rigorous development plans for its hydropower potential. The total number of current hydropower projects is over 350, and it is estimated that Turkey can meet up to 46% of the energy demand in 2020 from hydropower resources (Yuksek et al. 2007).


One of the most important issues for environmental consciousness is energy efficiency. Saving energy is a way of life, not just a part of it.

The automobile has become an integral part of American life with vehicles outnumbering licensed drivers: 254 million cars and 194 million licensed drives. In Turkey the latest statistics showed that there are only 23 million licensed drivers as compared to the 16 million cars on the road. These statistics proves that people living in Turkey tend to more commonly use alternative means of travel, such as the public transportation system, rather than driving their own cars, especially in the larger cities such as Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir, Konya and Bursa. In Istanbul there are even designated lanes along the highway for buses. Although buses, subway, and streetcars are among the preferred ways of transportation since their network pretty much covers everywhere, however, the big cities are still experiencing heavy traffic on the streets due to passenger cars.

The good news is that in Turkey the vast majority of the fleet of taxis and buses have been converted to Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) form, saving energy and money.

Environment awareness amongst the populace is also on the rise as well. Having young minds working on the cultural practices that need to be changed for a sustainable future requires both courage and time. To this end, Turkey has devoted the week of January 11th to raise the awareness for energy efficiency. Turkish schools celebrate this week by educating students from all ages in terms of matters governing energy and efficiency.

Rain water catchment systems, have always been part of the architectural design for buildings, however, the water collected from the roof was basically drained down to the garden and was not very practical. With the young generation raising awareness to not waste this precious resource, people have created better designs to capture and find a better use for the rain water.

Rain gutter designs are quite different in Turkey in comparison to the U.S. as well; instead of having them on the side of the curbs, they are designed as screens along the streets. Some cities have canals that bring melted snow and rain water to the middle of the city from the mountains in the vicinity. This water is then used for irrigation purposes.

According to the 2004 statistical figures of the Turkish Statistical Institute (TURKSTAT) 34 million tons of municipal waste and 17.5 million tons of industrial waste are produced in Turkey annually. The amount of wastes produced per person in Turkey reaches up to 1 kg (2.2 lbs) daily, of which 34% is food waste. This figure is very small in comparison to waste generation in the United States. The average waste generation in the U.S. is 3.5 kg (7 lbs) per person per day. It is believed that the cultural habits and practices of a people can affect the energy efficiency and minimize waste generation in their country. The practices in Turkey include but are not limited to using the produce when it is abundant and preserving it for later use either by drying fruits and vegetables, creating pastes (such as tomato paste), making marmalade and jams, as well as canning fruits and vegetables and pickling vegetables.

When it comes to our garbage, waste prevention - rather than waste management - is the best way to reduce environmental stress (Brown 2008, 7). It might come as a shock to some, but the most common drink in Turkey, black tea, is still today served in reusable glass cups (below). This differs in the U.S. where 16 billion paper cups are used for coffee on average in 2006, resulting in 253 million pounds of waste (Hillary Feldman, About My Planet Blog, comment posted on May 29, 2008). We need to adapt to thinking in terms of "Waste equals food" as Paul Bierman-Lytle, an architect working for the American engineering firm CH2M Hill, described the concept that waste from one system should provide food for another, whether an industrial system or an ecosystem.

Having said all the above, some of the highlights from Turkey's future plans include the following: accelerating expansion in renewable sources of energy, aligning Turkey with the European Union regarding renewable sources of energy, using the Multilateral Clean Tech Fund - according to the World Bank, Turkey is the first to receive that fund in 2009 - reduce greenhouse gas emissions, subsidize investors and investments in renewable energy resources, reduce waste generation and improve waste recovery with the help of research and development on these issues.

As humans, although we might see ourselves losing the battle of "Saving the Earth" today, however, we still have the chance to turn things around before it is too late.

I believe if we all work hand in hand to raise global citizens, who can understand and value common humanity, we can get us to work together toward a sustainable future.

Fethiye Ozis is a Lecturer, Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at University of Southern California.


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