SoftBank, Saudi Arabia Announce Massive Solar Power Project

SoftBank, Saudi Arabia Announce Massive Solar Power Project

SoftBank, Saudi Arabia Announce Massive Solar Power Project

Saudi Arabia has signed a memorandum of understanding with SoftBank Group for a $200 billion solar power project in the kingdom, calling it the single largest of its kind in the world.

The agreement will drive investment in a series of solar parks across the kingdom to be built by 2030, capable of generating enough power for 150 million homes.

The Saudi crown prince has been trying to wean the country off its addiction to oil and diversify the economy into new areas.

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. Son called the solar project the world's biggest.

"You have never seen something of this scale", he is reported as saying. "It's bold, risky and we hope we succeed doing that", Prince Mohammed said late Tuesday night as he left a press briefing at the Plaza Hotel.

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"The kingdom has great sunshine, great size of available land, great engineers, great laborers", he said.

Installation of the solar panels is planned to start this year, and the project should start producing electricity by the middle of next year.

The final investment total for the 200 GW of generation, including the solar panels, battery storage and a manufacturing facility for panels in Saudi Arabia, will eventually total around $200 billion. 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.

Virtually all of Saudi Arabia's power comes from oil or natural gas. The Indian-born dealmaker, valued for his Silicon Valley connections and growth-company investments, spearheaded major offshore acquisitions for SoftBank. The kingdom's sovereign wealth fund has reportedly committed $45 billion to the massive technology investment vehicle, which counts Uber, Nvidia and WeWork among its largest investments.

The solar project will provide 100,000 jobs to people and it will also increase Saudi's gross domestic product by $12 billion. The electricity demand in the country has grown by 9% a year since 2000.

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