Turkish PV market expanding despite growing pains

While Turkey’s solar market may offer great opportunities, it’s not bustling with business yet, according to participants at this year’s PV Power Plants – Turkey conference in Istanbul.

Rising conventional energy prices, a huge energy demand, feed-in tariffs at a standard rate of $0.133 per kilowatt hour and the highest solar potential in Europe are attracting international solar companies to the fast emerging market. Indeed, PV potential is estimated at around 500 GW and Sener Oktik, president of the Turkish Solar Energy Industry Association (GENSED), expects between 7 and 10 GW to be installed in the country by 2023.

In Turkey’s first licensing round last June, 9 GW of applications for large-scale projects of more than 1 MW were submitted, far exceeding the set 600 MW cap. However, no license has yet been approved for any of those projects over 1 MW.

The total installed PV capacity in Turkey is currently at around 12 MW. It is the non-licensed projects under 1 MW that are the driving factor for the 100 to 200 MW new PV capacity expected to be installed this year — many of them commercial rooftop installations for self-consumption. The total application pipeline for non-licensed projects is over 357 MW, according to Yalcin Kiroglu of the Unlicensed Electricity Generation Association (LI-DER). Non-licensed solar projects also have to go through different stages of applications and permits on the local and national level.

Bureaucracy remains the main barrier for a faster development of Turkey’s PV market, according to several conference participants, who made it clear that successfully working in Turkey’s PV sector demanded time and patience, and in particular, a local staff or partners with reliable ties to the responsible authorities and good local and legal knowledge.

Several factors pose continuing hindrances to PV development, including land availability for ground mounted systems, adequate financing, grid infrastructure and professional experience in the sector. Solar parks are prohibited from being built on farm land, making it particularly difficult to find acceptable locations for large-scale projects, China Sunergy’s Egemen Seymen pointed out. Project financing through local banks is often difficult: securing credit lines for solar projects can be challenging. The country also suffers from grid connection and capacity problems. The lack of installation experience and quality assurance in the country cause further limitations.

Nevertheless, cautious optimism prevailed at the conference. Entrepreneurs like Mustafa Tiris of T-Dinamik Energy Company expect at least 500 MW of new installed PV-capacity annually in Turkey starting in 2016 despite the sector’s growing pains.

Some 200 local and international industry representatives attended the conference, which was organized by Solarpraxis and pv magazine group.