Saudi Arabia and the SoftBank Group Corp. are collaborating to build the world’s biggest solar power development. The two partners have signed a memorandum of understanding to build a $200 billion solar power farm in the oil-rich country.
Saudi Arabia is determined to build a clean energy future for the country and lose its tight reliance on the oil industry. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman and SoftBank Group Corp. founder Masayoshi Son announced the project in New York on Tuesday.
Proposed plan 100 times bigger than existing farms
The planned development would generate 200 gigawatts of power, making it about 100 times bigger than another planned solar power plant. This amount of energy is about a third more than what the global photovoltaic industry supplied worldwide last year.
“It’s a huge step in human history,” Prince Mohammed said. “It’s bold, risky and we hope we succeed doing that.” The development includes plans for not only power generation but also panel and equipment manufacturing.
Solar Power part of 2030 Vision
Son says the project may create up to 100,000 jobs. The development is expected to hit its maximum capacity by 2030. Initial costings for the project estimate close to $1 billion a gigawatt.
“The kingdom has great sunshine, great size of available land and great engineers, great labor, but most importantly, the best and greatest vision,” Son told media. Prince Mohammed has been at the forefront of Saudi’s Vision 2030 campaign which aims to diversify the country’s economy and lessen the dependence on the oil industry.
SoftBank Group Corp. have suggested they are ready to invest heavily in Saudi Arabia hoping to spend $25 billion in Saudi Arabia over the next three to four years. This money will be put towards not only the ambitious solar energy development but into a new city called Neom, being built by the crown prince on the Red Sea coast.
Saudi Arabia pushes to meet demand
Saudi Arabia is pushing to meet the increased energy demands of its growing country. According to data from Bloomberg New Energy Finance, electricity demand has increased by 9 percent since 2000. The completed solar project will almost triple Saudi Arabia’s electricity generation capacity.
The wealthy country also has plans to build at least 16 nuclear reactors over the next 25 years at a cost of more than $80 billion. Masayoshi Son has been pushing for green energy investment for his Japanese investment firm since the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.
The company recently completed a 50-megawatt wind power farm in Mongolia. Son reportedly also has plans to connect distribute clean energy throughout Asia with a series of connected undersea cables and grids. The ambitious plan dubbed “Asia Super Grid", will be partly financed by the Softbank Group.