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Distributed Generation is the base to achieve that transit in Cuba
The country is already second in the world in the development of that field.

That severely affected the economy and the people. The solution was the Cuban Energy Revolution promoted by Commander in Chief, Fidel Castro. The generalization of the model of Distributed Generation (DG), an essential part of that initiative, contributed to solving the problems in a short period of time.

The Energy Revolution has been a radical change in the energy system of the country and will make the transition towards a new energy paradigm easier, based on DG, efficiency, solidarity and education on the subject of energy, as well as a greater exploitation of the renewable and fossil fuel resources in the country.

Over 40 per cent of the capacity of energy production is based on a few small generating units located across the country. Cuba is the second in the world in the employing DG, Denmark is number one.

The history of a model

The term DG is relatively new. But its application is as old as the commercial use of electricity. The first electricity system created by Thomas Alva Edison in 1882 on Pearl Street, New York, was decentralized. Such a system generated thermal and electric energy in a combined way.

With the energy generated, Edison made the light bulbs created by him work and supplied the excess of thermal energy resulting from the energy generation process, for the heating in buildings located in the neighbourhood near the energy generating plant.

Cogeneration, which is the joint production of thermal energy and electricity from the same fuel, is one of the ways of applying DG. Even though the word cogeneration was coined in the 70´s, the oldest way to produce thermal energy and electricity at the same time on record was the smokejack, known as the flying chimney, developed some centuries ago in Tibet to move the wheels during prayers in religious ceremonies.

Cogeneration is widely used in countries such as Denmark, Holland and Finland. In the case of hotels, hospitals or any other center of production and services, this method allows the production of thermal energy and electricity to supply their own needs, sending the excess to the grid or using the thermal energy on some industrial process.

This way of working increases the energy efficiency in the installations. In the sugar mills the remaining fibre or bagasse is burned and the energy resulting from its burning is used in a steam generator. The steam obtained is sent to a turbine to generate electricity.

The electricity meets the industry’s demand and the excess goes to SEN. Nowadays, renewable and non- renewable technologies are used in the application of the DG model.

One of the sophisticated technologies used today in fuel cells works on hydrogen. US and Japanese companies have created batteries that work using nuclear energy.

This type of “nuclear battery” can meet the needs of energy of a whole village or an industry for five years without a break.

Revolution within the Energy-Saving Revolution

DG in Cuba is fundamentally based on power generators that use Diesel fuel and fuel oil as combustible.

The application of such technologies has a positive impact on the environment since it has lower rates of fuel consumption. However; the impact of noise and emissions of gas and tiny particles on health at the local level is a problem whose solution is still being studied.

The spread of DG has meant an energy-saving revolution in itself since it changed the traditional way of generating electricity in big thermal plants across Cuba which were obsolete. In addition, the loss caused in energy distribution was very high due to the distance between the plants and the consumers.

An important advantage of GD is that it makes facilitates the penetration of renewable energy technologies which would not be possible in a highly centralized system.

Cuba has an electric generation capacity of 2,418 MW based on DG from which 1,280 MW comes from diesel generators and the rest are from fuel oil (540 MW), cogeneration (529 MW), and other renewable energy technologies (69 MW).

Over 6,000 diesel generators have been urgently installed in important production and service centres. The combined power of these generators amounts to 690 MW and they are expected to be connected to SEN.

The DG model is useful when facing natural disasters. This was proved in the aftermath of the hurricanes that hit the country last year.
In spite of the disasters caused by these hurricanes, the decentralized energy systems were kept in operation. Electric micro-systems were created following the DG outline and main services were guaranteed...

Energy decentralization with renewable sources

By its very nature solar energy is spread out and is intermittent. In Cuba, the average value of the solar energy the country receives is 5 kWh/m²/per day.

This means that every year, each square meter of the Cuban territory directly receives an amount of solar energy that is equivalent to the energy content of half a kilogram of oil.

The Energy Revolution has meant an accelerated start for the implementation of renewable energy sources. The implementation of programs for the development of wind power and the use of solar radiation for heating water are some of the steps the country has taken.

Likewise, the development of hydroelectric capacity has become consolidated, and new projects are being boosted for the energy assessment of solid urban waste.

Research is being conducted on the new possibilities to implement technologies to take advantage of geothermal and ocean energy and others. All these show the progress being made by the country towards the inclusion of an ever greater number of renewable energy technologies in the DG model.

Small scale hydroelectric energy, the use of wind power for pumping water, and the generation of electricity using photovoltaic panels, are some of the renewable energy technologies most used in Cuba.

Some 8,000 photovoltaic systems have been installed with the support of foreign NGOs, and a governmental program took care of supplying electricity to all the rural schools in the country.

CUBASOLAR and other institutions have played a key role in the introduction of renewable energy technology in the country. Spread all over the country are hundreds of biogas plants, and the country has extensive experience in the cogeneration of energy in the sugar industry.

It is expected that the contribution of the sugar mills to the SEN will continue to rise with the installation of more efficient technologies.

Cuba’s estimated cogeneration potential is about 1,300 MW. As part of the Energy Revolution, two wind farms are on trial, and a third is under construction.

In the municipality of Isla de la Juventud, there is a program for the use of biogas; solar energy is used for heating water; and forest biomass, hydroenergy, photovoltaic energy and wind power are being used for generating electricity.

By 2013, the region is expected to cover 40 percent of the local power demand using renewable sources of energy. The municipalities of Guamá and Bartolomé Masó are striving to accomplish energy independence by means of renewable energy technology.

DG has become consolidated in the national energy strategy. This model will allow the country to advance towards sustainable energy and socioeconomic development, with the efficient use of fossil combustibles and the ever greater use of renewable energy technology.

(Juventud Rebelde)

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