Power supply to a U.S. military base was cut off by the Turkish government following an attempted military coup in the country on July 15.

The Incirlik Air Base, which is playing a role in anti-ISIS operations, has been operating on generator power since grid power was cut, and although fuel to continue operating those generators can be flown in, doing so indefinitely would be complicated.

On Tuesday, U.S. defense officials told CNN that the military is doing “prudent planning” in case it becomes necessary to move its operations out of the base in southern Turkey, in Adana.

Map of Turkey. Source: U.S. State Department
Map of Turkey. Source: U.S. State Department

Stars and Stripes reported that “The delay in restoring commercial power comes amid heightened tensions between the U.S. and Turkey, which owns and operates the base in Incirlik. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called on Washington to turn over a cleric residing in the U.S. whom Turkish authorities have accused of being a mastermind behind the coup plot.”

For its part, the U.S. is wary of President Erdogan’s recent actions, which have included rounding up or firing suspected coup sympathizers from the military to judges to teachers.

Why the Military Is Interested in Microgrids and Self-Generation

The current situation in Turkey is a perfect example of why the Pentagon has been supporting development of various forms of onsite power, renewable power, and microgrids both at U.S. bases and those abroad.

The ability to have renewable energy sources for at least critical loads can enable a forward base to remain secure for much longer than if it is reliant upon deliveries of liquid fuels by truck or plane. Aside from the cost factor, such deliveries have repeatedly been the targets of enemy attack.

However, to date, costs and technology maturity have limited extensive use of solar power, for example, while the weight and size of battery backup has also been an impediment.

Power Supplies in Turkey

Turkey should not have any internal reasons for lacking power, especially since it connected with the European grid in 2010. As noted by multiple media reports, the power cutoff to military bases was clearly part of Erdogan’s effort to regain control over the political situation.

Turkey has in recent years taken steps to privatize the electricity sector, and among its grid-connected power plants is a highly efficient combined cycle plant that won one of POWER’s Top Plant Awards in the gas-fired category last year, the Cengiz Enerji Samsun Combined Cycle Plant in Samsun.

Turkey has also long sought to add nuclear generating capacity and has explored developing plants at various sites over the years that have met with pushback over concerns about earthquakes and security. Its latest goal is 10% nuclear power by 2023. In 2010, the government signed a build-own-operate agreement for four 1,200-MW reactors with Russia’s state-owned Rosatom. And in 2013, Turkey accepted a proposal from a consortium led by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and AREVA for four ATMEA1 reactors and signed an official agreement for that project.

For a detailed report on Turkey’s power sector, see “Power in Turkey.

Gail Reitenbach, PhD, editor (@GailReit, @POWERmagazine)