SoftBank, Saudi Arabia announce massive US$200B solar power project

29 March, 2018, 02:11 | Author: Martin Tyler
  • SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son, Saudi Arabia to create world's biggest solar power generation project

If built, the farm would almost triple the country's electricity generation capacity, which stood at 77GW in 2016 and is comprised entirely of natural gas and oil.

Mr Son said he envisions the project, which runs the gamut from power generation to panel and equipment manufacturing, will create as many as 100,000 jobs and shave US$40 billion off power costs.

In comments to reporters in NY that have been reported widely, Softbank chief Masayoshi Son said the first phase would involve the development of 7.2GW of solar.

It will cost $5 billion with $4 billion coming from financing and $1 billion from Softbank's Vision Fund. The remainder will come from loans to be paid off via revenue that is generated through selling electricity that the huge solar project produces, said Son. There are now only a few small solar power projects in the country.

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Saudi's government has been attempting to wean the kingdom off its oil addiction and diversify its economy into different areas. At $93 billion it's not large enough to pay for the mammoth solar project, but it's thought the fund will contribute to some of its costs.

"The kingdom has great sunshine, great size of available land and great engineers, great labor, but most importantly, the best and greatest vision", Mr Son told reporters at a briefing.

That will include training facilities and a research and development center "so the new technology will continue to evolve", Son said.

The solar power project is expected to have the capacity to produce up to 200 gigawatts (GW) by 2030.

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The kingdom, which is one of the world's largest oil producers, estimates its local energy consumption will increase three-fold by 2030. It was announced in NY after a Saudi-U.S. CEO forum held on the sidelines of the crown prince's multi-day tour across the U.S. The money is to come from a 93-billion-dollar fund the firm set up previous year with financial backers including Saudi Arabia.

In the past year, the kingdom has signed a series of agreements with US and other foreign companies, but only a small number of deals have moved forward.

Saudi Arabia has had renewable energy on the agenda for some time now, but it was only previous year that ministers in the country implemented plans for the first projects. The fund is now closed.

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