There's a place where a developer can propose, finance and build a big solar power project in a matter of months. That place is not California, Germany or China. It's South Africa. And the country's embrace of renewable energy has attracted investors like Google, which today said it is helping finance a 96 megawatt (MW) photovoltaic power plant in the Northern Cape province.

South Africa had "the highest growth in clean energy investment in the world last year," Rick Needham, Google's director of energy and sustainability, noted in a blog post about the Jasper Power Project. Google has put more than $1 billion into renewable energy, but this is only its second overseas venture. (The company put $5 million into a German photovoltaic power plant in 2011.) The search giant's stake in Jasper is relatively small—103 million rand, or $12 million of the $260 million total cost—but the solar power station will be one of Africa's largest, supplying enough electricity to power 30,000 homes.

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