Cuba, China har­ness sun to­gether

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE -

PI­NAR DEL RIO, Cuba — With China’s help, Cuba hopes to pro­duce more so­lar pan­els as part of ef­forts to pro­mote re­new­able en­ergy and bring elec­tric­ity to re­mote ar­eas.

Chi­nese raw ma­te­ri­als are guar­an­tee­ing pro­duc­tion at Cuba’s only pho­to­voltaic panel man­u­fac­tur­ing plant, the Ernesto Che Guevara Elec­tronic Com­po­nents, in the western prov­ince of Pi­nar del Rio, 160 kilo­me­ters west of Ha­vana.

“We buy raw ma­te­ri­als from China that are the same qual­ity as those from the United States or Eu­rope,” the plant’s di­rec­tor, Ivan Gon­za­lez, told Xin­hua.

Gon­za­lez, 50, stud­ied elec­tri­cal engi­neer­ing in the town of Lvov, in what was then the Soviet Union. Since grad­u­at­ing in 1990, he has worked at the plant.

Af­ter 27 years in the field, few peo­ple know the plant’s ins and outs quite like Gon­za­lez, who jokes that he be­gan at an en­try level job “tight­en­ing screws” and grad­u­ally worked his way up the ladder to where he is to­day, su­per­vis­ing some 500 em­ploy­ees.

The plant was in­au­gu­rated in Septem­ber 1987 to de­velop the is­land’s mi­cro­elec­tron­ics, but the dis­so­lu­tion of the Soviet Union soon af­ter prac­ti­cally brought op­er­a­tions to a stand­still.

In 2001, the fa­cil­ity was readapted to make 5-watt so­lar pan­els in­stead of semi­con- duc­tors, and now makes some 60,000 so­lar pan­els a year with a 15-megawatt ca­pac­ity.

Cuba aims to gen­er­ate 24 per­cent of its elec­tric­ity needs from re­new­able sources by 2030, but the plant’s an­nual out­put is cur­rently too lim­ited to help meet that goal.

“We are look­ing for tech­no­log­i­cal vari­ants to in­crease ca­pac­ity,” said Gon­za­lez, adding that Cuba plans to in­vest $10 mil­lion over the next three years to boost pro­duc­tion.

Ac­cord­ing to a 2012 cen­sus, some 20,000 homes in Cuba have no ac­cess to elec­tric­ity. The re­sults of the sur­vey led of­fi­cials to de­vise a pro­gram to equip those homes with so­lar pan­els.

The plant in Pi­nar del Rio makes the roof-mounted pan­els, and with pro­duc­tion at 75 per­cent, they are ex­pected to be ready by the first quar­ter of 2018.

The plant, which can cur­rently make about 200 pan­els a day, is also set to be­gin mak­ing 1-kilo­watt pan­els for the do­mes­tic mar­ket, and has diver­si­fied pro­duc­tion to in­clude in­duc­tion ovens, elec­tronic au­to­mo­tive parts, LED lights and wa­ter treat­ment and de­sali­na­tion plants.

Cuba’s trade ties with China have been key in help­ing the coun­try work to­ward its re­new­able en­ergy tar­gets and de­vel­op­ment goals.

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