Renewable energy in Cuba

Mercedes Menéndez González and Antonio Sarmiento Sera describe the application of solar and wind energy in Cuba.

Mercedes Menéndez González and Antonio Sarmiento Sera are Professors at the Center of Study for Renewable Energy Technologies (CETER) based at the Technical University of José Antonio Echeverría in Havana, Cuba.

Cuba is rich in renewable resources. Each square metre of our land receives a daily solar energy quantity equivalent to half a kilogram of diesel. This quantity of received energy does not change appreciably through the year and is, therefore, an ideal energy source to harness.

The Cuban territory comprises of around 19,000 km2 of mountainous zones. There are approximately 500 people living to the kilometre in these remote access zones. Currently, it is considered that 50 per cent of the countrys economic resources are used for the generation of energy, which amounts to around US$3 million a day.

In this article, we present a summary of some current applications of renewable energy use and indicate the huge potential that exists for a greater use of renewable resources in Cuba. Specifically, we describe photovoltaic solar and wind energy applications showing the characteristics of the installed systems, the energy consumed and the geographic distribution of these systems.

Distribution of photovoltaic installations in Cuba.

Photovoltaic systems

Cuba has around three hundred photovoltaic solar systems in use for rural electrification. These have been installed mainly for use in doctors offices and for rural hospitals. Up until 1989, 95 per cent of Cuba had electrification although in rural and hill regions only 80 per cent of territory had electrification.

Of the doctors offices which are situated far away from the city more than 280 obtain their electricity via photovoltaic solar systems. One photovoltaic solar system is shown in the photo on page 3.

These systems typically have between 400 and 425 watts of photovoltaic power. Up until April 2001, there had been 307 photovoltaic solar programmes implemented in doctors offices with 203 planned for the future. Also at this time photovoltaic solar programmes had been installed in six rural hospitals. At the moment, there are no confirmed plans to install more in rural hospitals.

Solar system in a doctor's office.

There are 1,942 primary schools located in rural regions that are not grid connected. All of these schools have some form of photovoltaic system. As with the medical centres, these systems have generally been imported. The plan to install personal computers in these schools, as well as the increasing use of television, means that new and larger photovoltaic systems are required.

A typical school at present will have:

  • a colour television set at 80 watts;
  • two low energy fluorescent lights at 15 watts each; and,
  • a video recorder at 30 watts.

It is estimated that the video and television are used for up to four or five hours per day for viewing educational programmes.

It is planned that, as far as is feasible, the new photovoltaic systems will be manufactured in Cuba. The provisional system design includes:

  • a 165 Wp (Wattpeak) photovoltaic panel which will be manufactured by Combinado de Componentes Electronicos using imported crystalline silicon cells;
  • an inverter at 250 watts; and,
  • a battery at 220 Ah (Amperes/hour).

The current imported systems normally include charge regulators but, for simplicitys sake, the design for manufacture in Cuba probably will not initially include these. The Cuban design will rely instead on careful voltage selection for the directly connected photovoltaic module.

Although Cuba suffers from severe economic limitations, the government has provided vital resources for rural schools. The most important of the resources have been in audio-visual support for specialized education and the financing of electrification programmes that guarantee five hours of service for one television set plus the running of two lamps at 15 watts. The energy used by this equipment is produced by photovoltaic panels.

These programmes, undertaken by the ECOSOL SOLAR company, were initiated in September 2000. Twenty-five different groups of people were involved in the setting up of the programmes, including specialists, workers from the Copextel company, university professors and students.

Three rural schools in the Guantanamo region have been electrified through the use of photovoltaic-wind hybrid systems. These hybrid systems have been installed in Rio Seco, Boca de Jaruco and La Llana localities as part of Cubas audio-visual educational programme. The photovoltaic-wind hybrid systems enable the use of television and video at night.

The hybrid systems have a wind generator with a battery bank which produces 2,500 kilowatts an hour through the day. There is a 30 per cent reserve of energy which comes from the photovoltaic panels. Plans are underway to extend the installation of these hybrid systems to another community.

All of these programmes are overseen by specialists from Technologic Applications in the Solar Energy Group, which comes under the Environmental, Technology and Science Ministry, and are aimed at making Guantanamo City Cubas Solar Capital.

Applications of wind energy

Today, we have more than 8,000 wind energy installations in almost all the provinces of the country. Recent projects have not only installed traditional machines but also new models that have been developed for use with water pumps for electricity production. This programme of development and installation has been successful because of the collaboration of many institutions such as the Solar Energy Investigations Center of Santiago de Cuba, the Renewable Energy Studies Center and the Solar Energy Group of Havana.

The Cuban Wind Energy Atlas, published by the Meteorology National Institute, showed that annual velocity was more than 2 ms-1 in many areas. Two examples are Bainoa which has an annual velocity of 3.9 ms-1 and Florida which has an annual velocity of 3.4 ms-1. These data were derived from testing at a height of ten metres.

Future application of wind energy in Cuba.


Cayo Guillermo

Santa María

Punta del Maisí

Cayo Sabinal

Cayo Romano

Cayo Coco

Power (in megawatts)







Costs (in US$)







Completion year







There are a number of places in Cuba that have good conditions for the use of wind generators. One of the most important applications is the Wind Park of Turiguanó. This was Cubas first wind park. On Turiguanó isle in the region of Ciego de Avila, the park supplies 0.45 megawatts of power. The project was financed by CUBASOLAR with donations given by other foreign government organizations.

The site of the wind park is at a distance of 800 metres from the sea and is near the Turiguanó to Coco road. It was selected after a two-year study period of wind activity. This study is just one part of the wind prospecting work which has been undertaken by the Electricity Engineers Company and CUBASOLAR. To date, they have studied 24 different sites in Cuba and have shown that there is a great potential for the use of wind energy in many regions.

The main technical characteristics of the Turiguano Wind Park comprise 450 kilowatts of nominal total power, 998.5 megawatts per year of generated electricity and 25.3 per cent in its capacity factor. There are two 28/225 type wind generator, manufactured by the company Ecotecnia. The park has two medium-power wind turbines interconnected to the national electric grid system. It is possible to increase the power of these machines in the future.

The project is of both local and national importance because of the following goals.

  • To produce 998.5 megawatts of power a year for the local network, which is 40 per cent of the actual annual consumption needs of Turiguanó. This will avoid the release of 215 tons a year of contaminants into the atmosphere.
  • To investigate further the conditions in Cuba for use of the wind in electricity generation and to study the potential use of other renewable energy or conventional systems, particularly for the remoter areas.
  • To facilitate access to this new technology for Cubas energy specialists and to work towards developing this technology further for use in different applications.

The Turiguanó Wind Park project has been supported over the past four years by the Provincial Government of Ciego de Avila and other provincial authorities such as the Electric Union. This project is part of the Wind Energy Program, which is in support of the National Energy Resources Program as constituted by the Popular Power National Parliament.


In summary, we can see that in recent years Cuba has made significant developments in the application of renewable energy use particularly in respect to photovoltaic and wind energy.

The use of these renewables provides many social benefits, not the least of which is the guarantee of much improved living conditions and a safer environment for many of Cubas people.

Further information
Mercedes Menendez Gonzalez, Technical University "Jose Antonio Echeverria", Facultad de Mecanica, CETER, Calle 114, No. 11901 entre 119 y 127, Municipio Marianao, Ciudad de la Habana, Cuba. Fax: +537-2671644. Email: Web:
Antonio Sarmiento Sera, Technical University "Jose Antonio Echeverria", Facultad de Mecanica, CETER, Calle 114, No. 11901 entre 110 y 127, Municipio Marianao, Ciudad de la Habana, Cuba. Fax: +537-2671644. Email: Web: