Cuba seeks to boost wind energy and solar power

Cuba is intending to increase its renewable energy production by 12 percent over the next eight years in a push for "energy security and sovereignty", an article posted on the official Cubadebate web site said.

"If today only 3.8 percent of the energy generated in the nation is obtained from renewable sources, in the next eight years we aspire to get to 16.5 percent," Cubadebate said, citing official energy industry figures.

The island will try to attain this objective using mainly forest biomass and sugar cane, as well as solar energy, wind power and hydraulic energy.

The sugar industry will be "the main support" for the plan and by 2013 the potential exists to increase energy production from biomass by 10 percent, Cubadebate said.

Over the next year, authorities are forecasting building a wind farm to generate 50 megawatts in eastern Cuba, while the government is studying the idea of installing eight new such wind power farms throughout the country by 2020 with a total potential power output of 280 MW.

Also, Cuba intends to generate more than 100 MW using hydraulic sources, which currently produce 64 MW at one hydroelectric plant and 162 other small installations, Cubadebate said.

The country’s acknowledged solar energy potential exceeds 2,000 MW, but currently the island only has small photovoltaic installations that are connected to the National Electric System and provide only isolated service, Cubadebate said.

Other options will be the development of sources such as biogas, forest biomass and wind turbines on farms.

"The incipient use of hydraulic and wind sources" in 2011 allowed Cuba to save 31,150 tonnes of fuel and to generate electricity while at the same time cutting its CO2 output by more than 100,000 tonnes, a figure that represents a 20 percent reduction in Cuban emissions compared to 1990, Cubadebate said.

Cuba, which obtains 96 percent of its electricity from fossil fuels, is also heavily involved in the search for oil in its waters of the Gulf of Mexico, where the Spanish energy firm Repsol just reported drilling a dry well.

In 2011, the island produced some four million tonnes of petroleum and natural gas destined mainly for electricity generation, but domestically-produced fuel covers only 50 percent of the country’s consumption.