UK-based Hive Energy has set up a joint venture with a unit of China’s Shanghai Electric Group to develop a 50-MW solar project in Cuba.
The new JV with SE Energy Investment Company should begin construction work on the project in late November, Hive said in a press statement.
The project will consist of three solar parks totalling 50-MW in the Mariel Special Development Zone (SDZM), which covers more than 400 square km. The total cost is estimated to reach up to US$60 million and the work is scheduled to complete in the autumn of 2019.
“We have been working in Cuba for many years to realise this project. We are delighted to be partnering with Shanghai Electric who also have considerable in-country experience,” said Giles Redpath, CEO of Hive Energy.
“This exciting project is Cuba’s first utility-size solar park. The project will provide a good boost toward reaching the renewable targets of 2030, producing significantly cheaper energy than the average cost of generation today,” said Andrew Macdonald, Director of Mariel Solar.
SDZM, which is located in the north of Artemisa province around 45 km west of Havana, is the first of its type in Cuba. The zone is regulated by special regimes and policies, designed to attract investment.
Cuba passed an investment law three years ago, giving foreign companies the right to full ownership of renewables projects.
By 2030 it is estimated that renewable energy sources will provide for 24% of all the power generated in the Caribbean country.
The country benefits from relatively flat terrain, meaning that it has the opportunity to build utility-scale solar. Being the largest Caribbean country, it also has ample space to go ahead with such projects.
Supply pressures, along with a changing Cuba following the death of former Communist leader Fidel Castro in 2016, are putting pressure on the country to take advantage of its renewables potential.
Growing numbers of tourists have begun visiting Cuba since the end of the Castro era, and new businesses are driving higher energy demand.
However, analysts say that Cuba’s target of renewables fulfilling 24% of its energy needs by 2030 – a significant rise from the level of 4% today – is ambitious, since it would require billions of dollars of investment.
The country is planning to install 700 MW of solar energy by 2030, according to government targets released in 2014. It currently has around 65 MW of installed, operating solar power.