Lake Turkana Wind Power Construction Site 2015
Google’s increasing interest in renewable energy projects outside of the US could see the internet company invest in Kenya’s 310MW Lake Turkana Wind Power project. Pic credit: LTWP construction site

In Kenya, American multinational technology company Google, is negotiating investing a small stake in the 310MW wind farm, Lake Turkana Wind Power (LTWP), CNBC reported on Thursday.

However, a Google spokesperson declined to comment and LTWP representative, Rizwan Fazal said: “Google is not involved in LTWP at present and LTWP has no agreement or understanding of any nature with Google.”

Broader implications of investment

The negotiations would likely see Google invest a relatively small sum of money in LTWP – ‘perhaps in the tens of millions of dollars’ – according to insiders with knowledge of the talks, CNBC reported.

Investors are increasingly looking to build power and energy infrastructure on the continent, including private equity firms Blackstone Group, Carlyle Group and Denham Capital. It is therefore likely that the broader implications of the internet company’s involvement could encourage others to invest in similar projects.

Kwame Parker, head of power and infrastructure for East Africa at South Africa’s Standard Bank, said in an email to CNBC about Google’s potential investment in the wind project: “As assets mature you will begin to see developers and private equity firms looking to exit transactions to parties looking for steady annuity income.”

“Given Google’s global profile and the profile of Lake Turkana Wind Farm, a Google investment would be a significant vote of confidence for investors considering African power market entry.”

Google’s green footprint

Google’s director of energy and sustainability, Rick Needham, has said that the company only pursues investments that make both financial sense and that have transformative potential for the growth of clean energy.

While Google’s green investments are for profit, its philanthropic arm has supported SolarAid, which is working to build off-grid solar solutions to increase the rate of rural electrification in African communities.

To date most of Google’s renewable energy investments have been in the US, largely in wind and solar farms in places such as West Texas and California’s Mojave Desert. However, the environmentally conscious company is increasingly looking to become involved in clean energy projects outside of the US.

In 2013, Google invested $12 million (ZAR 148 million) in South Africa’s Jasper Power Project, one of the largest solar installations on the continent.

Lake Turkana Wind Power project

The Lake Turkana Wind Power project will provide 310MW of onshore wind power to Kenya’s national grid, which is equivalent to approximately 20% of the current installed electricity generating capacity.

The project is of significant strategic benefit to Kenya, and at Ksh70 billion ($700 million) will be the largest single-private investment in Kenya’s history. The construction and long-term maintenance contracts will also address unique challenges faced by the location of Lake Turkana, which is situated in one of the most remote areas of Kenya.

Featured image credit: Google doodle