Google Investment Could Drive Down Cost of Wind Energy for Africans and Americans

By Ariel Gandolfo

Earlier this month, CNBC reported that Google is in negotiations to invest in Africa’s largest wind power project, which is set to break ground this Thursday. Located in Kenya, the $700 million Lake Turkana wind farm represents the largest single private investment in Kenya’s history. The expected 310 megawatt output could increase national energy capacity by 20 percent, filling a crucial gap in a country where more than 75 percent of the population lacks electricity, even after the government spends over one hundred million dollars per year on fuel imports.

The investment clearly makes sense for the forward-thinking tech giant, because more Kenyans with electricity means more people able to use Google products; the company’s strategy dovetails philanthropy with its core business interests by enlarging its long-term customer base. While Google has concentrated its renewable energy technology investments in California and the American Southwest, it also invested $12 million in the solar Jasper Power Project in South Africa in 2013, and the Turkana wind farm could be its second large-scale investment in African energy infrastructure.

The wind array will be constructed on the eastern shore of Lake Turkana, pictured here.

The wind array will be constructed on the eastern shore of Lake Turkana, pictured here.

Clean energy investments are a cornerstone of American foreign policy on the African continent, and the Obama administration has leveraged billions of dollars from the private sector and philanthropic foundations to scale up investments in clean energy innovation. President Obama’s flagship Power Africa initiative, housed in USAID, is the most notable for international development. By collaborating with African governments and private companies, Power Africa aims to add 30,000 megawatts of clean electricity generation and provide electricity to 60 million new homes and businesses. Continue reading