The search giant that’s lending its magic touch to everything from driverless cars to robotics is making major strides in the development of one of today’s hottest fields–clean energy.
In sight of an upcoming UN climate change conference, Google announced on October 20 that it would be buying a major stake in Kenya’s largest wind farm.
The Lake Turkana Wind Power Project is spearheaded by international energy company Vestas, which has a 12.5 percent stake. Other prominent backers include the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, The Government of Netherlands, and the European Union.
Vestas is installing the 365 turbines and contracted to provide maintenance for a period of 15 years. Google will buy Vestas’ stake in 2017 once the wind farm goes live.
The Lake Turkana project is the biggest undertaking of its kind in Africa. The farm’s exemplary estimated energy output of 60 percent (most farms have under 35) will allow it to provide 310 megawatts of clean energy, powering two million households and saving Kenya $133 million in imported fuel costs per year.
What will make this project so efficient is the ideal location. While most wind farms have to deal with low wind speed, the Lake Turkana farm is to be built in an area that experiences consistent wind with speeds over 24mph.
Lake Turkana is only the latest in Google’s clean energy investments, which total $2 billion spread out over 22 projects. These include the largest solar project on the African continent and the wind farms across the United States.
The Lake Turkana project comes at a time when the international community is actively looking for solutions to climate change. The United Nations is set to meet in December of this year in Paris to discuss the matter further. Although 51 nations have released plans to combat climate change, many experts are still calling for stricter measures. Investment in renewable energy is an important piece of the pie, and Google is taking an important position in the future of this sector.
In addition to its environmental benefits, the Lake Turkana project is important to Kenya’s economy and infrastructure. The wind farm will be built in an area that among the poorest in the nation. The presence of the Lake Turkana project will help revitalize the economy of the local area. It will provide electricity access to a significant portion of the population that currently lacks energy.
This aligns with Kenya’s current goals to achieve universal energy access and improve the capacity of its grid by 5GW by the end of the decade. Once Lake Turkana is in operation, it will account for 15 percent of the country’s energy grid. This will help accelerate the growth of what is already one of the fastest-growing economies in the world.
It may seem like Google is taking a gamble with a project of this size, but company leaders are confident. The success of Lake Turkana and Google’s other clean energy investments may end up making it the most important name in energy some time in the future.