Google eyes share in Lake Turkana wind power construction project in Kenya

Google eyes Sh4bn stake in Turkana wind power plant

Information Technology giant Google has announced that it was buying 12.5 per cent stake in Africa’s largest wind farm that is the Lake Turkana Wind Power construction project in Kenya.

The IT firm has agreed to purchase the stake in the wind farm project in Kenya from the project’s third-largest investor Vestas, when it becomes operational in 2018.

Google is set to invest US$40,000 in Lake Turkana wind power construction project in Kenya.

The announcement by Google to fund the project makes it part of a diverse group of international investors supporting the project, key among them the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (Opic), the US government’s development finance institution and Vestas, which is also supplying turbines for the wind farm.

Google Energy lead for Africa Joseph mucheru said that the decision to invest the the biggest wind farm in Africa was informed by the fact that the project makes economic sense. He added that the project had the potential to have a massive impact on Kenya’s energy grid, helping to accelerate the deployment of renewable energy in one of the world’s fastest-growing countries.

In recent years, Kenya has shifted its power generation focus to renewable sources such as geothermal, wind and hydro power. The country targets to expand installed capacity by about 5,000 megawatts by 2017.

Currently Wind power generates only 1.1 per cent of Kenya’s energy mix compared to 36 per cent from hydro sources, 26 per cent from geothermal, and 30.1 per cent from thermal sources.

Although originally planned for completion in 2011, the project has been hit by delays partly because it was awaiting a 428-km high-voltage line linking the area. The transmission line was finally approved in August 2014 and will now take about two years to construct.

Constructed in a corridor of land that receives steady winds throughout the year, the wind farm construction project in Lake Turkana area lies over 40,000 acres. But the wind firm could be built on a further 110,000 acres.

Opic president and chief executive Elizabeth Littlefield, said that the LTWPP shows their commitment to the progress of President Barack Obama’s initiative Power Africa.

In 2014, Opic approved $250 million in debt financing and $46 million in political risk insurance to support the LTWPP.

Seen as a major deterrent factor to economic growth, Google has committed more than $2 billion globally to advance 22 clean energy projects. Last year, the US based international firm invested $12 million in the Jasper Power Project which is a 96MW South African solar photovoltaic plant –first renewable energy investment in Africa by Google.

IT firm Google runs big data centres to power the billions of searches it processes every day making billions of profits annually. In recent years however, it is has branched out into new projects beyond its core internet business.

 

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