There is almost 2 gigawatts of electrical geothermal power in Turkey. Geothermal is a significant part of renewable energy in Turkey and is also used for heating. Geothermal power in Turkey began in the 1970s in a prototype plant following systematic exploration of geothermal fields. In the 1980s the pilot facility became the first power plant. The small-sized geothermal power plant was expanded to the country's biggest one in 2013. Over 60 power plants operate in Turkey as of 2020[update], with two-thirds capacity binary and one-third flash, and potential for more. As well as the electricity sector in Turkey, geothermal heat is used directly. At the end of 2021 Turkey had 1.7 GW installed capacity, the fourth largest in the world after the United States, Indonesia and the Philippines: and for heat is second only to China. Western Anatolia is especially resource rich.
Although there is almost 2 GW of geothermal and potential for 5 GW total, including enhanced geothermal systems, carbon dioxide emissions can be high especially for new plants: to prevent this the fluid is sometimes completely reinjected.
Temperature is mostly low-to-moderate but there are a few high-temperature resources in the Menderes Massif. The high geothermal potential is due to geology such as radiogenic granites of western Anatolia and the Western Anatolian Graben systems. The heat generated by the radioactivity of these granites, which cover over 4000 sq. km, ranges from around 5 to 16 µW/m3. However "many of Turkey’s existing geothermal plants are situated on reservoirs where the carbon content of non-condensable gases (NCGs) in the geothermal fluids are high", therefore care must be taken to avoid excessive carbon emissions.
The CO2 emissions from new geothermal plants in Turkey are some of the highest in the world, ranging from 900 to 1300 g/kWh but gradually decline. According to a December 2020 report the CO2 "impact is considered as recoverable if required measures are taken. Further research and investment are needed to identify appropriate and site-specific measures for the project region." Such measures might include reinjection into the reservoir, or removal methods such as CarbFix. Because emissions decline over time the World Bank has estimated that lifetime emissions will be similar to the world geothermal average.
Not all geothermal is suitable for electricity generation but almost every region has heating possibility. Turkey is second to China in direct use, with almost 4 GWt, including 1120 MWt district heating, 855 MWt greenhouse heating (such as tomatoes for export and dried fruit) and many spas and hotels. But in 2021 the International Energy Agency said that there was still untapped potential in buildings, and in 2022 Ufuk Senturk, president of the Geothermal Power Plant Investors Association said that the number of homes heated could be increased from 160 thousand to a million. He also said that the area of heated greenhouses could be increased more than 10 times. District heating is sometimes combined with electricity generation, and can save money compared to gas heating.
In 1965, the state-owned Turkish Mineral Research and Exploration Co. began with the first geological and geophysical surveys in southwestern Turkey. The Kızıldere geothermal reservoir, a field on the western branch of Büyük Menderes Graben, was discovered in 1968 as a geothermal field suitable for electricity generation. The first power plant was built as a prototype facility in 1974 with 500 kW installed capacity. The generated electricity was distributed to the households in the vicinity free of charge. The state-owned Elektrik Üretim A.Ş. (EÜAŞ) enlarged the installed capacity up to 17.4 MW in 1984. However, the average actual power was around 10 MW. In 2008, the power plant was transferred to Zorlu Energy in the frame of privatization. Zorlu Energy obtained the right of operating lease for 30 years, and increased the capacity from 6 MW to 15 within a short time. The company invested US$250 million to expand the facility. In December 2013, the Kızıldere Geothermal Power Plant reached an installed capacity of 95 MW making it Turkey's biggest.
Most is in the form of direct-use heating however geothermal electricity is currently produced at the Kizildere plant in the province of Denizli producing 120,000 tons of liquid carbon dioxide and dry ice. As of 2006 and 2010, there were two plants generating 8.5 and 11.5 MWe respectively, in Aydın.
The direct-use heating has been mostly district heating serving 103,000 residences (827 MWt and 7712.7 TJ/year). There is also individual space heating (74 MWt and 816.8 TJ/year); 800,000 m2 of heated greenhouses (192 MWt and 3,633 TJ/year); and 215 balneological facilities, 54 spas, bathing and swimming pools (402 MWt and 12,677.4 TJ/year). It is stated that at least 1.5 million houses, currently heated by natural gas, can switch to being heated by thermal waters.
As of 2005, 170 future geothermal prospects had been identified with 95% in the low-to medium enthalpy range suitable for direct-use applications (Simsek et al., 2005).
Geothermal exploration has accelerated since the adoption of the Law on Geothermal Resources and Natural Mineral Waters in 2007. This law gave potential private partners the necessary confidence to invest, eliminating some of their concerns with regard to legislative, technical and administrative hurdles. For instance, the law reduced the number of licenses to two.
In parallel, the Renewable Energy Support Scheme of 2010 introduced a new feed-in tariff (US$ 0.105 per kWh) guaranteeing companies a purchase price for the energy they generated at a fixed rate for ten years. Investors are currently waiting for news of the new feed-in tariff from 2021 onwards before renewing their commitment to geothermal power production in Turkey.
In 2010 the installed geothermal electricity generation capacity was 100 MWe while direct use installations were approximately 795 MWt.
Turkey reaches milestone 1,100 MW of installed geothermal power generation capacity in December 2017. Turkey is fourth largest in the world in 2018 when it comes to installed capacity after United States.
From 2009 to 2019, the number of geothermal power plants increased from 3 to 49. This corresponds to a geothermal capacity of 1.5 GWe, placing Turkey fourth in the world for after the USA, Indonesia and the Philippines, according to the Turkish Energy Market Regulatory Authority.
Suppliers of binary-cycle technology; such as Atlas Copco, Exergy and Ormatare; are prominent in the market.
At high enthalpy and high temperature combined flash-binary plants are more efficient.
Sometimes wells owned by competing companies interfere with each other.
Electricity generation potential was estimated at 4 GW in 2020.
Geothermal is financially risky and "public finance is more beneficial if it addresses early-stage risks." In 2022 the World Bank loaned $300 million for geothermal energy. According to the Geothermal Power Plant Investors Association the cost of a kilometre deep well is about 1 million USD. It may be possible to use existing oil exploration boreholes in Southeast Anatolia. The Geothermal Power Plant Investors Association said in February 2022 that the interest on lira loans was about 24%, and that it was nonviable to invest at the then feed in tariff (also in lira).
There are concerns about possible hydrogen sulphide in the air and heavy metals in the water.
An international conference is currently held annually. Hot rock geothermal fields in the east have not been fully explored as of 2019, and it has been estimated that 30% of Turkish residences could be heated geothermally. Geothermal energy could also be used for desalination.
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