by Raul Menchaca
HAVANA, Nov. 17 (Xinhua) -- Fancy a solar-powered beach umbrella that doubles as a charging station for your mobile devices? Or a backpack with a built-in solar panel so you can recharge your laptop on the go?
China's high-tech firm Beijing North Star recently showcased these and other innovative solar-powered products at the Havana International Trade Fair (FIHAV 2018).
Experts say each square meter of surface area in Cuba receives some 1,800 kilowatts of solar radiation a year on average. That makes the island a potential powerhouse of renewable energy and a perfect market for North Star and its range of products, from solar water heaters to solar LED street lights.
"Solar-powered electronic products are more used in Cuba because there is a lot of sun here for many hours, and that's why the goods we make are in keeping with what this country needs," company CEO Yang Longchuan told Xinhua.
North Star has longstanding trade and cooperation ties with Cuba and its government agencies and electronics industry, which it supplies with parts for assembling solar heaters at a factory in Moron, a town in central Ciego de Avila province.
The company also supplies parts for LED tubes assembled locally for lighting streets and tunnels. The tubes were developed in China based on designs by Cuban engineers.
Iraya Rodriguez, an engineer of the company's sales team since 2013, said North Star already has a contract to supply lighting for avenues and warehouses, and a second contract is in the works.
"We bet on products related to renewable energy, such as LED lighting, small solar systems and lithium batteries that allow you to use a TV set or a refrigerator for a few hours," said Rodriguez, who is fluent in Chinese after studying for two years in Beijing.
Cuba is in the midst of economic reforms and restructuring, among others, to reduce its reliance on costly fossil fuels through boosting renewable energy.
The plan is to have the sun, wind and biofuels generate up to 24 percent of the country's electricity output by 2030.
With photovoltaic energy playing a key role in the government program, which calls for 59 solar parks across the country to feed the national power grid, Beijing North Star's ties to Cuba are likely to continue to flourish.