SoftBank Vision Fund, Saudi Arabia to create world’s biggest solar power firm
SoftBank Group Corp’s Vision Fund will invest in creating the world’s biggest solar power project in Saudi Arabia, it said on Tuesday, stepping up its involvement in the kingdom and expanding beyond technology. The project is expected to have the capacity to produce up to 200 gigawatts (GW) by 2030, SoftBank Chief Executive Masayoshi Son told reporters in New York. That would add to around 400 GW of globally installed solar power capacity and is comparable to the world’s total nuclear power capacity of around 390 GW as of the end of 2016.
By investing in solar power, Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter, can reduce the amount of crude it currently uses to generate power and increase its overseas shipments. The move illustrates the commitment by the de facto Saudi ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Sultan, to transform the country’s economic status quo. 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, Son said.
The initial phase of the project, for 7.2 GW of solar capacity, will cost $5 billion, with $1 billion coming from SoftBank’s Vision Fund and the rest from project financing, he said. Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 reform plan, which aims to reduce the country’s economic dependence on oil, was a good match for the fund’s long-term vision for innovation, said Son. “These two visions have come together to create clean, sustainable, low-cost and productive renewable energy,” he said. “The Kingdom has great sunshine, great size of available land, and great engineers…”
Despite being one of the world’s sunniest countries, Saudi Arabia generates most of its electricity from oil-fired power plants. Saudi’s entire installed power capacity is currently around 60 GW. Adding 200 GW would create enormous excess capacity that could be exported to neighbours or used by industry, although the kingdom will still require other forms of power generation for night-time back-up. (Reuters)