Google investing $12 million in South African solar project

The Internet giant is planning to speed up the adoption of renewable energy by reaching into its own pockets first.
Written by Rachel King, Contributor

Google's interest in spreading high-speed broadband to the masses has grabbed the media spotlight repeatedly over the last few months, but the Internet giant has some other socially-minded initiatives in the pipeline as well.

See also: Report: Google developing fund for wireless networks in emerging markets

The Mountain View, Calif.-headquartered company announced on Thursday that it has closed its first investment in Africa. Specifically, Google has pledged $12 million for developing solar installations in South Africa, translating to 103 million Rand in local currency.

Designed to be a 96-megawatt solar photovoltaic plant, the Jasper Power Project is situated in the Northern Cape Province of South Africa.

Other financial parties involved include SolarReserve, Intikon Energy, the Kensani Group, the Rand Merchant Bank, the Public Investment Corporation, Development Bank of South Africa and the PEACE Humansrus Trust.

Rick Needham, director for energy and sustainability initiatives at Google, explained in a blog post that one of the goals behind the investment is simply to speed up the adoption of renewable energy.

When we consider investing in a renewable energy project, we focus on two key factors. First, we only pursue investments that we believe make financial sense. South Africa’s strong resources and supportive policies for renewable energy make it an attractive place to invest—which is why it had the highest growth in clean energy investment in the world last year. Second, we look for projects that have transformative potential—that is, projects that will bolster the growth of the renewable energy industry and move the world closer to a clean energy future. The Jasper Power Project is one of those transformative opportunities.

Needham added that the project will create approximately 300 construction and 50 permanent jobs with a project total revenue of $26 million over the course of the project.

Right now, fossil fuels are the primary source of energy in South Africa.

When completed, Google asserted that Jasper will be home to one of the largest solar technology installations in Africa with the ability to power more than 30,000 homes in the country.

Google didn't provide an exact completion estimate, but Needham did cite that South Africa has a goal of achieving a rate of 18 gigawatts in renewable energy by 2030 -- compared to 44GW produced by all of its resources now.

Image via The Official Google Blog

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