Pistachios are already a key ingredient in the Turkish treat of 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 ecological city.
Officials are currently examining plans to build the country’s first ecological city with both private and public buildings heated by burning pistachio shells.
There can be few better locations for such a project than Gaziantep, a southeastern region of Turkey close to its border with Syria that 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 “green” building expert with the Gaziantep municipality administration. “We are planning to obtain biogas, a kind of renewable energy, from burning pistachio shells.”
“We thought the ecological city could be heated by burning pistachio shells because when you plan such environment-friendly systems, you take a look at natural resources you have,” she added. “If the region was abundant in wind power, we would utilise wind energy.”
The pistachio-heated city would encompass 3,200 hectares and house 200,000 people. It would be located 11km from Gaziantep Province’s capital, which is also named Gaziantep.
If the project bears fruit, the 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 Organization.
Last year, it exported 6,800 tonnes of the nut, generating approximately US$80 million in income, up from 4,010 tonnes and US$50 million in 2010, according to the Southeast Anatolia Exporters Union.
Gaziantep alone exported 4,000 tonnes of pistachios last year, said Mehmet Kahraman from the union.
A pilot project for the new city will be carried out in a small 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 percent of the area’s heating could be met by 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 reach an agreement and private land owners are convinced it will be implemented in a “short period of time.”