'Green' Google in talks to back massive African wind project

Construction site for the Lake Turkana Wind Power project in Kenya, 2015.
Source: Lake Turkana Wind Power

Google gets lots of attention for expanding into novel technologies like driverless cars and artificial intelligence. But the technology giant also has put big bucks—more than $2 billion to date—into the next generation of energy production.

Now, the company is in discussions to back the largest wind power project in Africa, a fast-growing but power-starved continent, according to people familiar with the situation.

Google is negotiating to become an investor in the Lake Turkana Wind Power Project, a more than $700 million, 40,000 acre undertaking in Kenya. It's the largest private investment in the history of the East African country—where less than a quarter of the population has access to power—and the project's 310 megawatt capacity is expected to boost Kenya's installed energy capacity by 20 percent.

The deal is not finalized, according to the people, and, even if completed, Google's would be a minority stake.

A spokesman for Google declined to comment, and Turkana representative Rizwan Fazal said, "Google is not involved in LTWP at present and LTWP has no agreement or understanding of any nature with Google."

Most of Google's renewable energy investments have been domestic, largely in wind and solar farms in places like West Texas and California's Mojave Desert. But the environmentally conscious company is increasingly looking outside the U.S.

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