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Kenya's President opens Lake Turkana as Google stays silent

Wind farm ribbon-cutting almost a year after first power as mystery surrounds web giant's plans to buy stake

Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta is on Friday due to formally open the country’s Lake Turkana wind farm, as mystery continues to surround Google's plans to fulfill an earlier pledge to invest in the project.

Almost a year after it began generating electricity, Kenyatta is scheduled to cut the ribbon at the 310MW project, said project company Lake Turkana Wind Power.

Lake Turkana is the largest wind farm in sub-Saharan Africa and has been hailed as a landmark for renewables on the continent.

It is also – in theory – the target of an investment by Google, which in 2015 “committed” to buying a 12.5% equity stake on completion in a high-profile announcement that praised the wind farm’s “massive impact on Kenya’s grid” and garnered the web giant approving headlines globally for its backing of African renewables .

Google silent over pledge to back Africa's largest wind farm

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However, as Recharge reported in May, despite the project being operational since autumn 2018 Google has yet to complete the purchase of the stake from Vestas, the Danish wind group which built and equipped the project.

Google has repeatedly refused to respond to requests from Recharge to clarify its intentions, the latest lodged this week. Vestas has said it still expects to complete the transaction.

The Danish wind OEM said Friday's ribbon-cutting is another reason to celebrate the progress of wind power in the region. “Lake Turkana shows that large infrastructure projects are possible in Africa when stakeholders work together, while its remoteness underlines Vestas’ ability to provide wind energy solutions anywhere in the world,” a Vestas spokesman told Recharge.

“The inauguration is therefore a great day for renewables in Africa and we believe it will pave the way for many more wind energy projects.”

The project faced significant challenges along the way, not least over completion of its 428km export line. Although Vestas completed the wind farm ahead of schedule, the separate transmission project run by TSO Ketraco was dogged by legal disputes and the insolvency of its original contractor, delaying the export of first power by more than a year to September 2018.

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