Feature: Cuba looks to harness sunlight for renewable energy

Source: Xinhua| 2017-06-06 15:54:23|Editor: xuxin
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HAVANA, June 5 (Xinhua) -- Sun-scorched Cuba is looking to harness solar energy to reduce its reliance on pricey imported fossil fuels and further develop renewable energy.

"On the day we can export solar energy, we'll become millionaires," Havana resident Norma Lopez says cheerfully, during one typical hot, sunny day in the nation's capital.

Sweating from the heat, Lopez, who is retired and is in her 70s, feels surprised to learn that it is possible to turn the sun's rays into exportable energy. Moreover, Cuba has made it a priority to generate more energy from the sun.

Several weeks ago, Cuba's electric company, Union Electrica de Cuba, announced it was building four photovoltaic parks in the western province of Matanzas, where another nine are also planned.

The Matanzas project is part of a large government program to develop renewable energy sources and wean the country off fossil fuels. The goal is to generate 24 percent of Cuba's energy from renewable sources by 2030.

On this Caribbean island, solar radiation can reach about 5 kilowatts per square meter per day, or 1,852 KW a year, a rate considered good by experts.

The government plans to build a total of 59 solar parks, 33 of which are to be completed this year, Jesus Lacera Linde, executive secretary of the Project Board in Cuba's Ministry of Construction (Mincons), told state daily Granma earlier this year.

The 33 plants, which will be linked to the national electric energy grid, will supply up to half of what a conventional electricity plant can generate.

Once going into operation, the plants will mark "notable progress in the exploitation of solar energy, one of the country's most promising sources of renewable energy and an essential objective in the goal to change the energy matrix," Granma said.

Cuba currently produces 45,000 barrels of oil per day and more than 3 million cubic meters of gas, both almost entirely used to generate electricity.

Those resources supply approximately half of the country's energy needs, and the other half is supplied by Venezuela through a very flexible deal.

Fossil fuel imports are costly for cash-strapped Cuba, as President Raul Castro noted in a speech to lawmakers in December. "The price hangs over our economy like the sword of Damocles," he said.

"We must speed up the development of renewable energy sources, which today represents only 4.65 percent of electricity generation," said Castro, adding "that is one of the strategic sectors where we must decidedly bolster foreign investment."

With an ambitious program already underway, Cuba may in the near future see solar power as a common source of energy but not a surprising novelty.