Two Scots, including the head of the biggest manufacturer of Harris Tweed, are helping deliver Cuba’s first major renewables project.
A ground-breaking ceremony at Ciro Redondo sugar mill today will herald the start of construction on one of four planned biomass power plants which will add 300 megawatts to the country’s power grid.
Generating electricity partly from residues of its sugar crop, the £500million scheme is seen as vital to reducing Cuba’s reliance on oil imports from Venezuela.
Former UK Energy Minister Brian Wilson chaired Havana Energy after being asked by the Cuban government to help find a solution to their energy needs. The company secured a joint venture with the Cuban sugar ministry in 2012 to build the plants and found technical and investment partners in the Chinese conglomerate Shanghai Electric.
The joint venture, Biopower Ltd, will be headed by Havana-based Scot, Andrew MacDonald, who also has a home in South Uist, in the Outer Hebrides.
Mr MacDonald said: “The fact that we are now delivering the first of these power stations should give other investors confidence in the potential to do business, particularly at a time when change is in the offing and opportunities are many and varied.”
Mr Wilson, a UK Business Ambassador and chairman of Harris Tweed Hebrides, said progress on the project had been “a long haul made infinitely more difficult by the American blockade.”
He added: “Without Andrew’s presence on the ground and his utter commitment to overcoming obstacles, we would never have reached this point.
“There is still the challenge of funding subsequent plants but the first one was always going to be the most difficult.”
In addition to residues of the sugar crop, power will be generated by burning an invasive weed called marabou.