Google’s Latest Renewable Energy Investment: Kenya’s Lake Turkana Wind Farm

Google’s Latest Renewable Energy Investment: Kenya’s Lake Turkana Wind Farm

From WallStreetJournal. Story by Kjetil Malkenes Hovland.

Google Inc. has agreed to buy a 12.5 percent stake in what is expected to be Africa’s largest wind project, Kenya’s Lake Turkana, from Danish wind turbine manufacturer Vestas Wind Systems.

The Danish company said on Tuesday that Google will purchase the stake once the project is completed in 2017 for an undisclosed amount.

The 310-megawatt Lake Turkana wind park, controlled by Lake Turkana Wind Power Ltd., is set to produce 1.4 terawatt hours of electricity a year, or about 15 percent of Kenya’s electricity needs, based on current generation capacity, Vestas said.

“We are making a commitment to invest in Lake Turkana because it makes financial sense, but also because it has the potential to have a massive impact on Kenya’s grid, helping to spur the deployment of renewable energy in one of the world’s fastest-growing countries,” said John Woolard, Google’s energy vice president.

The nearly $1 billion private-and-public-sector joint-venture wind project offers the scale of infrastructure that international organizations say Africa needs for the continent to unleash its vast economic potential. Annual economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa has averaged 5 percent in the past decade, according to the World Bank. Ramped-up energy production would boost growth even more, the World Bank and other organizations say.

The project was threatened when the World Bank withdrew its support in 2012, but the African Development Bank stepped in to lead the funding effort.

The 365-turbine Lake Turkana project is Kenya’s largest-ever single private-sector investment. Other shareholders include Dutch-registered company KP&P Africa B.V., Aldwych International Limited, the Norwegian Investment Fund for Developing Countries, Denmark’s Industrial Fund for Developing Countries, and the Finnish Fund for Industrial Cooperation Ltd.

“We are extremely proud to provide the technology and service for a project that will be one of the most efficient wind parks in the world and which upon completion will include Google among its investors,” said Vestas CEO Anders Runevad.

Google so far has committed $2 billion to 22 clean energy projects, including Jasper Power Project, the continent’s largest solar project in South Africa, said the company’s energy and sustainability director Rick Needham in a blog post published Tuesday.

The company sees a big opportunity in fast-growing markets with rich renewable energy resources, and the Lake Turkana project would help reduce Kenya’s reliance on fossil fuels and emergency diesel generation, Needham added.

Google and Vestas have previously cooperated on the 270-megawatt Alta Wind Energy Center in Southern California and the powering of a Google data center in Finland.

Read more at WallStreetJournal.