SoftBank and Saudi Arabia Planning Largest Solar Project Ever

Alicia Cross
March 29, 2018

Saudi Arabia past year invited bids for a "utility-scale" 300 megawatt solar project, in a first for the world's top oil exporter. The 32-year-old king-in-waiting and a Saudi delegation are cementing ties with the Trump administration and lining up American investors as the kingdom embarks upon an ambitious plan to diversify its economy. The project will cost $200 billion which will include solar panels, battery storage and a manufacturing facility for panels in Saudi Arabia.

"This is a tremendous step in human history". About two thirds of that is generated by natural gas, with the rest coming from oil.

By comparison, there are roughly 70 gigawatts of solar capacity in operation, under construction or in development in the United States, according to a list of large-scale projects kept by the Solar Energy Industries Association. The farm is expected to reach its maximum capacity of 2020 with an estimated cost of $1 billion a gigawatt - hence the $200 billion figure.

The ample sunshine and land and Saudi Arabia's pool of engineers and skilled workers make the foray into solar there lucrative, Son said.

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The remaining $10 billion could be in Saudi Electricity Company. This is beneficial to Prince Mohammad Bin Salman Al Saud, who created Vision 2030 to reduce the country's dependence on crude oil. SoftBank is said to have aimed to deploy as much as US$15 billion in a new city called Neom, which the crown prince plans to build on the Red Sea coast.

By investing in solar power, Saudi Arabia, the world's biggest oil exporter, can reduce the amount of crude it now uses to generate power and increase its overseas shipments.

The Kingdom has accelerated the pace of deals in pursuit of the diversification targets of Price Mohammad Bin Salman Al Saud. The SoftBank Vision Fund has already invested in companies in the U.S., Europe, and India. The sale of about 5% of the oil giant Saudi Aramco is expected to provide additional funds.

Saudi Arabia also plans to build at least 16 nuclear reactors over the next 25 years at a cost of more than US$80 billion.

Other reports by Free-Prsite

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