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John Dolva

PHOTOVOLTAIC ENERGY Looking to the future

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C U B A

Havana. November 7, 2013

PHOTOVOLTAIC ENERGY

Looking to the future

OrfilioPeláez

THE Third Cuban Photovoltaic Workshop was recently held in the University of Havana’s Manuel Sanguily Theater and presented were current perspectives for the gradual development of this renewable energy resource, to turn the sun’s rays into electricity.

Dr. Daniel Stolik, Physics professor at the University and head of the workshop’s organizing committee, told Granma that given the country’s geographic location, Cuba consistently receives a high level of solar radiation, the basic premise behind aspirations to make photovoltaic energy central to energy generation here, in the future.

He points out that the country’s greatest energy resource is the sun, while acknowledging, "We are far from being able to exploit it on a large scale."

According to studies conducted, the average amount of solar power reaching Cuban territory every year is slightly more than 1,800 kilowatt/hours per square meter.

In the opinion of Dr.Stolik, also a researcher with the University’s Materials Science and Technology Institute (IMRE), other factors which contribute to Cuba’s potential to rapidly advance in this area include the government’s firm commitment to promote the use of solar power (as well as other renewable resources such as eolic, sugar cane and forestry bio-mass and bio-gas); the country’s highly trained human capital and the experience already gained during the installation of more than 9,000 solar panels.

He recalled that most installations serve to provide electricity to sites in remote areas not connected to the national grid, including medical clinics, schools, homes, community television and social halls.

He said that during 2013, the National Electric Company has erected banks of photovoltaic panels connected to the national system in the provinces of Guantánamo, Santiago de Cuba, Cienfuegos, Villa Clara, Havana, and the Isle of Youth special municipality, producing a total of 10 megawatts, to triple the amount of electricity generated with solar power in the country.

COSTS & WORLD TRENDS

In an interview with Granma, Dr. Stolik explained that the initial investment required has been the principal obstacle to growth of solar power in Cuba, but that this cost has declined significantly over the last 10 years, given scientific and technical progress and especially because of efficiency gained as large-scale production has expanded.

By 2020, he asserted, photovoltaic energy will be less expensive than that generated using fossil fuels.

"This is also a result of the use of more efficient single and polycrystalline silicon cells, which offer better cost/benefit performance, and, at the same time, a result of increased installation of photovoltaic systems connected to and synchronized with the national grid."

He explained that photovoltaic energy could eventually meet between 30 and 35% of the country’s demand for electricity, within the framework of a comprehensive program for its long-term development.

To illustrate the advantages of photovoltaic energy, the expert cited its many positive features, including low operational and maintenance costs; the ease with which systems are installed on roofs of any building or area exposed to the sun; limited use of water; low risk of damage in the event of technological accidents or natural disasters, in addition to the fact that solar power units do not contaminate the environment or contribute to global warming.

"Once they start to work, the process becomes less expensive, since the fuel used comes from the sun," he added.

Dr. Stolik shared statistics about the current situation in Germany, which receives only 60% of the solar radiation Cuba does but heads the list of countries generating the greatest amount of photovoltaic energy worldwide, with capacity to produce 35,700 megawatts. Next in terms of capacity are Italy, China, the United States, Japan, Spain, France, Belgium and Australia.

Latin America has not yet prioritized this source of energy. Among all member countries of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), a capacity of only 200 megawatts exists, compared to the more than 120,000 mW worldwide.

Between 2000 and 2012, the production of photovoltaic cells increased 134 times around the world, clearly demonstrating the exponential growth of this emerging branch of technological and scientific development.

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