German-Turkish relations are a high-stakes affair. Not only does Germany count some three million residents with roots in Turkey, the two countries are strategic to both the global economy and international diplomacy. In recent years, however, the relationship has been fraught with tension, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel recently declared her desire to "reinforce" bilateral relations with Turkey, as one state broadcaster reported last week.
Yet Merkel"s wishes run up against reality. One of the diplomatic spats to have erupted between the two countries started a year ago, when Deniz Yücel, a journalist for Die Welt, with German-Turkish dual-citizenship, was arrested in Istanbul over accusations of supporting "terrorism." The news last Friday that the reporter had been finally released from prison has done little to shed light on that political and diplomatic mystery, and Yücel's ordeal is indeed far from over, with prosecutors in Turkey still seeking up to 18 years of imprisonment.
There are also five other German citizens still stuck in Turkish cells on legally dubious charges. Perhaps the fact that six Turkish journalists were given life sentences on the same day as Yücel's release is a sign from Ankara that it has no plans to change course. Indeed, Turkey holds the record for the numbers of journalists in jail.
The fact that a political leader in his own country needs police protection from a foreign delegation should be a wake-up call.
But a new sign of tension emerged this weekend, at the sidelines of the annual Munich Security Conference. Die Welt reported on Sunday that Cem Özdemir, the leader of Germany's Green Party, had to be placed under police protection after the Turkish delegation, led by Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, complained to the police about his presence, referring to him as a "terrorist." Özdemir, whose parents emigrated from Turkey and who was born in Germany, has been one of the most vocal critics of Erdogan.
Last week, Özdemir had urged Merkel to stop "cuddling" with Turkey. It is colorful language, to be sure. But the fact that a political leader in his own country needs police protection from a foreign delegation should be a wake-up call. This is all the more true at a time when tensions in the Mediterranean over oil and natural gas between Turkey and several smaller European Union countries are threatening to escalate. If the bloc's smaller nations feel they don't have the backing of the EU's biggest economy, what will prevent them from turning their back on the idea of a united Europe?
No, what happens with Germany and Turkey is never about just Germany and Turkey.
With loans and solar panels from China, the massive solar park has been opened a year and is already powering the surrounding areas. Now the Chinese supplier is pushing for an expansion.
CAUCHARI — Driving across the border with Chile into the northwest Argentine department of Susques, you may spot what looks like a black mass in the distance. Arriving at a 4,000-meter altitude in the municipality of Cauchari, what comes into view instead is an assembly of 960,000 solar panels. It is the world's highest photovoltaic (PV) park, which is also the second biggest solar energy facility in Latin America, after Mexico's Aguascalientes plant.
Spread over 800 hectares in an arid landscape, the Cauchari park has been operating for a year, and has so far turned sunshine into 315 megawatts of electricity, enough to power the local provincial capital of Jujuy through the national grid.
It has also generated some $50 million for the province, which Governor Gerardo Morales has allocated to building 239 schools.
Abundant sunshine, low temperatures
The physicist Martín Albornoz says Cauchari, which means "link to the sun," is exposed to the best solar radiation anywhere. The area has 260 days of sunshine, with no smog and relatively low temperatures, which helps keep the panels in optimal conditions.
Its construction began with a loan of more than $331 million from China's Eximbank, which allowed the purchase of panels made in Shanghai. They arrived in Buenos Aires in 2,500 containers and were later trucked a considerable distance to the site in Cauchari . This was a titanic project that required 1,200 builders and 10-ton cranes, but will save some 780,000 tons of CO2 emissions a year.
It is now run by 60 technicians. Its panels, with a 25-year guarantee, follow the sun's path and are cleaned twice a year. The plant is expected to have a service life of 40 years. Its choice of location was based on power lines traced in the 1990s to export power to Chile, now fed by the park.
Chinese engineers working in an office at the Cauchari park
Chinese want to expand
The plant belongs to the public-sector firm Jemse (Jujuy Energía y Minería), created in 2011 by the province's then governor Eduardo Fellner. Jemse's president, Felipe Albornoz, says that once Chinese credits are repaid in 20 years, Cauchari will earn the province $600 million.
The Argentine Energy ministry must now decide on the park's proposed expansion. The Chinese would pay in $200 million, which will help install 400,000 additional panels and generate enough power for the entire province of Jujuy.
The park's CEO, Guillermo Hoerth, observes that state policies are key to turning Jujuy into a green province. "We must change the production model. The world is rapidly cutting fossil fuel emissions. This is a great opportunity," Hoerth says.
The province's energy chief, Mario Pizarro, says in turn that Susques and three other provincial districts are already self-sufficient with clean energy, and three other districts would soon follow.
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