Thursday, 07 March 2019 09:23

Unique Features of Cuba’s Wind Farms

Written by Leidys María Labrador Herrera - Granma
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The wind turbine components began arriving in Cuba in December 2018. The wind turbine components began arriving in Cuba in December 2018. Photo: Leidys María

Defining the characteristics of the terrain, finding the most suitable wind turbine models, and ensuring hurricane resistance are just some of the challenges the island faces in generating wind energy

 

Well into the 21st century, many dangers threaten the stability of our planet as we know it. Beyond wars, epidemics or political instability, there is a disaster that also stems from the irrational attitudes of our species, and whose main consequence is the destruction of the environment and, with it, possibly that of humanity itself.

The excessive exploitation of natural resources, without awarding the concept of sustainable development its place within the great strides of the modern era, is an underlying concern expressed in the most diverse international scenarios. This has yielded results such as joint agreements that point to a greater awareness of states regarding such a sensitive issue, although there are those who irresponsibly refuse to cooperate.

Undoubtedly, one of the most important steps toward this goal is the use of renewable energy sources, which allow for a gradual reduction in dependence on fossil fuels. Logically, such moves are not only environmentally motivated, but also include a strong economic component, since while most of these alternatives require large initial investments, their efficiency and stability result in swift cost recovery.

Given the potential of the island, in addition to its various solar parks scattered throughout the country, the use of wind as an energy source is also gaining ground among planned investment projects.

Harnessing wind energy is nothing new; humans have been using it for a long time. However, with the passage of time and scientific and technological advances this use has been consolidated, given its efficiency.

Gibara wind park, in the eastern province of Holguín. Photo: Ministry of Energy and MinesGibara wind park, in the eastern province of Holguín.                  Photo: Ministry of Energy and Mines

Generating electricity from wind, among other benefits, is non-polluting, as no toxic substances are emitted or waste produced, and reduces the use of fossil fuels therefore resulting in significant import substitution, all of which translates into sustainable development.

In Cuba there are already several wind farms in a testing phase, however, the most ambitious of investments in this area is that of the La Herradura 1 and La Herradura 2 parks, a wind generation complex located north of Las Tunas province, with a total of fifty-four 1.5 and 2.5 megawatt wind turbines.

While this may seem a simple project, it has posed several challenges, as the complexity of construction works requires a high level of detail, the permanent monitoring of the processes linked to the execution of the project, and the professional development of all those involved.

Engineer Delisse Moreno García, director general of the Electrical Engineering and Projects Enterprise, spoke to Granma International about the efforts in this field: "Our enterprise began its training as soon as the renewable energy policy was conceived, especially that of our technicians, both within our country and abroad.

"This is the first time that a project of this kind has been undertaken, as while we have a series of test parks, they are of much smaller dimensions than those we are working on here. The construction process of these parks also differs. The installation of modern and such large equipment imposes new construction, assembly, ground preparation and location methods, even when installing electrical connections. All the procedures associated with these wind turbines represent significant changes, therefore, we had to study them and undertake several test projects beforehand."

But the complexities are not only related to the wind turbines themselves. As the engineer explained, coupled with the parks is the substation that receives the energy generated, a facility that is larger, more complex and modern than the rest of the national system. "I believe that the most important thing is the benefit, not only for the people of Las Tunas, but to strengthen the National Electric System," she noted.

In recent years, various models of wind turbines have positioned themselves in the market, and a quick internet search suffices to observe innovative designs that break with the traditional image we have of them.

However, the fundamental aspect in this sense is that the selection of equipment corresponds to certain parameters of the area where it will be located, logically including wind speed and prevailing weather patterns.

The selection of the equipment to be installed in the Las Tunas wind parks took into consideration these aspects, as explained by the Director of the Renewable Energies basic enterprise unit, affiliated with the Electrical Engineering and Projects Enterprise, engineer Yadiel Martínez Rodríguez.

"The first thing that is done is a study that allows us to assess the wind resource in the area and select the appropriate wind turbine, among the different types existing in the market. When the first La Herradura project was conceived, the most established turbines were 1.5 MW. When the La Herradura 2 project was being studied, the same procedure was carried out and, in that case, 2.5 MW machines were already recognized and therefore it was decided to opt for that power for the second park.

"Depending on the wind speed that is measured in each zone, different machines are used. One of the aspects that influence this is the height of the hub, or the size of the rotor. Today, 3 MW machines are being used around the world at higher altitudes, and experimentally some four and five megawatt machines, always depending on the best use. Returning to the La Herradura projects, we can say that given the average wind speed in this area, which is eight meters per second, the machines that will be installed will allow an optimum use."

The real possibility that tropical storms and cyclones hit the country is an aspect that is constantly considered in all strategic state plans, and the construction of wind parks is no exception, as Martínez noted: "The selection process assesses the power, but within that same regulation is what is called the class of the turbine. In this case we can speak of class 1, 2, 3 and class S (special). This classification is what defines the maximum wind force that a wind turbine can withstand.

"In the case of Cuba, as it is a country frequently hit by tropical phenomena, class 2 is chosen for the eastern zone, and in the case of the west, class 1 or S is recommended. We are talking about enduring a category 4 hurricane, without the equipment suffering any damage. It is also worth noting that the machines have a guidance system and other procedures to protect themselves in the event of a hurricane.

"Once the storm has passed, if the wind turbine did not suffer any damage, all that is needed is to restore the electrical supply so that they can synchronize and start generating again. They must be connected to the power grid to be able to work, but they do not need, as thermoelectric plants do, for example, a period of time to be able to initiate generation. With the connection and the wind, they automatically initiate the process."

A popular saying goes that the sun rises for everyone, and adapting it to the matter that concerns us here, it could be said that the wind also blows without distinction. It is an inexhaustible natural resource, not only capable of destroying, but that can also be used to generate something as valuable as electricity.

When the wind turbines' north of Las Tunas blades begin to spin, the National Electric System will receive an injection of more than one hundred megawatts. As such, the news that other similar investments will be undertaken in the country is promising. Cuba is looking toward a future of clean energy, more economic and based on a single objective: sustainable development. (Granma)

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