Turkey to burn pistachio shells for biogas to power new city
Burning pistachio shells would produce biogas to heat new eco-city
Pistachios are already a key ingredient in Turkish baklava, but the country may now have found a new way to exploit the nuts known as "green gold" - by using their shells to heat a new eco-city.
Officials are examining plans to build the country's first ecological city, with buildings heated by burning pistachio shells.
And there can be few better locations for such a project than Gaziantep - the southeastern region close to the Syrian border which produces thousands of tonnes of the nut every year.
"Gaziantep's potential in pistachio production is known, as well as its considerable amount of pistachio shells waste," said Seda Muftuoglu Gulec, a municipal green building expert.
"We are planning to obtain biogas, a kind of renewable energy, from burning pistachio shells."
The pistachio-heated city would encompass 3,200 hectares, and house 200,000 people. It would be 11 kilometres from the province's capital city, also named Gaziantep.
If the project bears fruit, pistachio shells formerly regarded as waste could become a new form of energy.
Turkey is one of the world's biggest producers of pistachios, along with Iran, the US and Syria, according to the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation.
Last year, it exported 6,800 tonnes of the nut, generating US$80 million in income, up from 4,010 tonnes and US$50 million in 2010.
Gaziantep alone exported 4,000 tonnes last year.
A pilot project for the new city will run in a 55-hectare area, before rolling out across the entire city if successful.
The potential of pistachio shells was first uncovered by French environmental engineering company Burgeap, which reported last year that the local variety known as antep was the most feasible source of energy in the region.
Burgeap said as much as 60 per cent of the area's heating could be met from renewable energy resources.
The project is still pending approval from local authorities.
While Gulec declined to provide a firm timeline, she said that if officials at the municipal level reached an agreement - and if private land owners were convinced - it would be implemented in a "very short period of time".