Nejat Tuncay:”Our Energy Security Is More Important Than Environmental Concerns”

Nejat Tuncay:”Our Energy Security Is More Important Than Environmental Concerns”

ISTANBUL – “Power Electronics and Clean Energy Systems” is a course given in English as part of the post-graduate program at Okan University. Instructor of the course, Prof. Dr. R. Nejat Tuncay, says that while they were formulating the program, they kept in mind the rising interest in global clean energy in parallel with the goal of meeting Turkey’s needs for qualified brain power. Tuncay says they formulated this program while trying to stay on a parallel line with the developments in the world and also trying to keep in mind a niche field choice. He said they prefer those students who have Bachelor degrees in electronics. However, graduates of mechanical or computer engineering can take 6 months or one year of orientation courses in order to harmonize with this post-graduate program. Tuncay reminded us that the most important agenda in Turkey is energy security, thus the need for nuclear energy in Turkey.

Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and Architecture of Okan University, Prof. Dr. R. Nejat Tuncay also runs the post-graduate program given in English and titled “Power Electronics and Clean Energy Systems”. We met him on campus in Mecidiyeköy, Istanbul and discussed the content of the post-graduate program, the qualifications required of those students who want to participate in the program. And the renewable energy market in Turkey.

“We don’t have a problem with brain power however it is obvious that we do need technological know-how and we have to sacrifice for it. We have to continue the Research and Development work and also our discoveries,” says Tuncay. Our interview is below.

Tuncay: The main reason for begining an Orientation to Clean Energy program is…

Mr. Tuncay, first of all why did the university feel the need to start such a program?

The Faculty of Engineering and Architecture and the Graduate School for Physical Sciences of Okan University have collaborated to set up a graduate program titled “Power Electronics and Clean Energy Systems” in the English language. The main reason that we have initiated this graduate program is that the orientation, on the global scale, with regard to energy is towards clean energy, thus Turkey needs to educate qualified brain power and we have put forth an effort to fulfill the vacancy in this scope. If you pose the question, “Why clean energy?”, there are two dominant, propellant forces in the field of energy. One of them is energy security. The second propelling force is the environmental problems and global warming caused by greenhouse gas emissions. With the way things are headed, there will be a 6 degrees Centigrade increase in the temperature by the year 2050. Reports from the OECD’s center in Paris show that in order to suppress this increase to 2 degrees C, there is a very serious need for clean energy. The more you turn to clean energy, the more you contradict supply security. This is due to the fact that neither solar nor wind energy are easily convertible to electrical energy.

Tuncay: We will educate brain power for the power electronics field

What is the content of the program?

What we define as clean energy is actually renewable energy. The foremost of these is hydraulic energy. Our main goal is not in this field. Although small aquatic power stations are quite widespread, the main goal of our educational program is wind and solar energy, a brief look at hydrogen energy, and their applications. During the process of converting solar rays to energy, unfortunately a small amount of the rays that reach earth are able to be used. Although there are systems for feasible prices they function with 25% or 30 % productiveness. This condition shows that there is a long way yet to be travelled on this road. In short, solar energy is not economically sufficient. In order to convert solar energy to the electricity used in homes, namely alternating voltage, a power electronic device has to be used. There is a shortage of brain power disciplined in this field; our goal is to fill the gap and educate staff for this field. There are power electronics programs in universities. However there are no power electronics programs dedicated solely to renewable energy. Similarly with the wind matter, electricity is produced according to the speed of the wind. Some of these turbines directly produce alternating current (AC); that is the current used in homes. Yet still it is not at the desired frequency and voltage values appropriate to be transmitted to houses. That is why power electronics circuits are used. So what will you do when the wind doesn’t blow? You have to store energy. What will you do at night at the solar power stations? Again you have to store energy. Thus you have to be able to store the energy in batteries. Our main goal is to educate the brain power necessary to do the implementations and improve the implementation people.

Tuncay: Electrical vehicles are also within the scope of our research at Okan University

What are differences between your post-graduate program and the similar ones in Turkey?

Energy programs are not so widespread anyway. There are programs related to energy in universities. There is no program in Turkey that is related solely and completely to power electronics and clean energy. Many of us in Okan University have studied for our PhDs and have instructed lessons in universities abroad. We have come from outstanding universities such as the Bosphorus, Middle East Technical University (ODTÜ), Istanbul Technical University (İTÜ). This is how we see the picture: If Okan University gave the same program as ITÜ, it would just be a repetition. Universities like İTÜ have a very rich and prominent academic staff. So the thing that relatively small universities like Okan University should do is choose a niche, specialized field and by concentrating on that field, they should educate the brain power necessary for it. This has become our main goal. That is why we are very different. We have another program related to energy. It is a program about automotive mechantronics and smart vehicles. I don’t want to go into detail but I wish to say this much. If you could reach an optimum solution by managing traffic and vehicles with methods such as communication between vehicles in traffic and communicating information on the road and vehicle situation, then it would be possible to save a great amount of energy. Actually it can be as high as 20%. This is an important amount. This is how the other post-graduate program is related to energy. In both programs we have instructors who do research on electric cars, who work with industrial enterprises, and who produce technology. Thus electric cars are included in the research perspective of Okan University and they are also taught in courses within these programs with respect to energy.

Which criterion should students possess in order to be able to apply for the Power Electronics and Clean Energy Systems program?

Foremost, we prefer those students who are graduates of Electricity and Electronics Department. However in the case that a graduate student from Mechanical Engineering Department came and he/she is interested in this field, then we have that student take some courses within the scope of what we call an orientation program. This may last 6 months or 1 year. After they have passed these courses we accept them to the post graduate program. Basically, those students who have graduated from fields such as computer, mechanical, or electric electronic engineering are appropriate for this program.

Tuncay: Producing technology does not necessarily mean that it is a product that can be sold or that can compete on the market

Let’s take a look at today, sir. How do you evaluate the process of renewable energy resources in Turkey?

When I was working at İTÜ, I had a position in the Marmara Research Institute of TÜBİTAK (TÜBİTAK = The Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey). There we developed the first serial hybrid car in Turkey; it was the 2002 model Doblo. Shortly after that, the Ford group worked with TÜBİTAK and İTÜ on a similar project. We weren’t so late in developing the technology. However as you well know, developing technology does not necessarily mean that it will be competitive or marketable. You have to be able to put the cost and quality factors in the forefront with respect to production technology. You have to be able to sell a high quality product that is at the same time competitive on the market. Then there is a supervision mechanism in the automotive industry known as “homologation” tests. Turkey hasn’t been able to overcome this yet.

Tuncay: Energy security is foremost important, nuclear energy is necessary

As you know, the 2023 goals for the energy sector have been announced. How reachable are these goals?

Our established power is at a level of 52 GW. When we speak of renewable energy, we have to speak of this capacity in terms of energy, not watts. For example, you set up wind power plants. You make calculations as if the wind blows continually. Actually it doesn’t work out that way. What we can see in the world and in Turkey is this: although Turkey is rich with respect to wind, if you think that it can meet its energy needs with renewable energy resources, you will be mistaken. Many people agree with my opinion. We should promote renewable energy. Turkey has promoted wind energy in particular, and we will see more of it. However Turkey’s energy needs increase by 8% each year. We use substantially less energy than other countries. Now that they have transferred to technologies that utilize less energy and also because their population has not increased, their demand for energy has diminished to an extent. Thus they feel more comfortable in taking certain decisions. I assume that they are leaving nuclear energy because of these reasons. It has been difficult to express this but I am 100% sure that Turkey needs nuclear energy. Our environmental concerns have always been foremost. But today energy security is more important than anything. We have come to the point where we produce 50% of our electricity from natural gas. My generation and the generations before us constructed hydroelectric power plants. Consequently we can see that for sustainability in enegy, we need nuclear energy.

Tuncay: Production of electricity from hydrogen is not quite possible in the near future

Mr. Tuncay, I would like to speak of producing electricity from hydrogen. There is some work being done on this subject, and there are some workshops being organized for this purpose. What would you like to say on this topic?

The second half of the 20th century has been a period when people have worked hard on hydrogen energy. We can speak of two ways. One is the burning of hydrogen, collecting the heat and producing energy. Some car companies have prototypes like this. The other way is putting hydrogen and oxygen together and producing electric energy with the aid of fuel batteries. Billions of dollars have been spent on this. In fact when one Canadian company made a serious endeavor to merchandize this, Mercedes bought out the company years ago. It appears that producing electricity by this method will not be possible in the near future. Electric cars are being produced. That is another matter but a sturdy product and a cost-effective production technology has not yet been found. Unfortunately it is not competitive. Now people are working on the problems of hydrogen roads and networks, of preserving, transporting and storing hydrogen. Now coming to the subject of separating hydrogen from the hydrogen sulfide in the Black Sea…Why not? There is something there that has been stored in the wrong manner, at the same time it is a waste. It will have been recovered and used to good account. Provided the hydrogen technology era has arrived.

Interview: Kağan Konçak,

Translation: Banu Ergüder,

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Senem Gençer 761 posts’un kurucu ortaklarından biri ve CEO’su olan Gençer, 1971 yılında Diyarbakır’da doğdu. 1993 yılında ODTÜ İşletmeyi bitirdikten sonra, Johnson & Johnson Medical ve Yeni Zelanda Büyükelçiliği gibi farklı kurumlarda çalıştı. 2007 yılında güneş enerjisi ve LED aydınlatma konularında halen çalışmakta olan Ekogüneş’i ve Türkiye’nin ilk online solar ürün satış sitesi olan’u kurdu. Gençer, aynı zamanda Güneş Enerjisi ve Sanayicileri Derneği GENSED’in kurucu üyelerindendir.

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