Cuba's first production factory designed to turn seed oil into green fuel opened in July, with the capacity of producing more than 100 tons of biofuel a year. The small factory was funded by the Cuban government and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, said Jose Sotolongo, director of the Center for Applied Technology for Sustainable Development in the eastern province of Guantanamo. It will produce more than 100 tons of biofuel a year, Sotolongo said, adding that the biofuel source is the oil-rich jatropha seeds, which are "toxic for human consumption" but ideal for fuel. The first few liters of fuel have already been used "successfully" to run agricultural machinery in the area, added Sotolongo.
The biofuel made from the jatropha seeds instead of edible vegetable oils, such as sunflower and soybean, marked "a major change in the widespread paradigm in global biofuel production," Sotolongo said.
The highly resilient plant needs little water and can be "cultivated in areas of little or no agricultural value," he said.
In Guantanamo, 130 hectares of jatropha have been planted to ensure enough raw materials available for the plant to operate at full capacity.
Cuba, which bans using food materials to produce biodiesel, aims to use such renewable resources to generate up to one sixth of its domestic electricity by the end of this decade.
The island has already used sugarcane and forest biomass to produce electricity.