SoftBank, Saudi Arabia to build $200-bn solar project

SoftBank's Son says to create world's biggest solar power company in Saudi Arabia

The project will be built in Saudi Arabia - though it is not yet clear where in the country - and will reach maximum capacity in 2030, when it will have an output of 200GW, far exceeding any existing or planned solar farm.

The deal is the latest in a number of eye-popping announcements from Saudi Arabia promising to scale up its access to renewables.

To start $5 billion will be used as the initial investment, of which the Japan-based SoftBank fund will give $1 billion. "We have great sunshine, land and great engineers and labour", Prince Mohammed told reporters in NY, as quoted by Bloomberg.

Masayoshi Son, Softbank's CEO, announced the agreement with Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman to create a 200 gigawatt solar initiative in the sun-drenched oil producer by 2030.

He said the sale of electricity produced by the first phase of the project would help finance successor stages, and that while solar panels would initially be imported, a factory to produce them locally would be built in the kingdom in two or three years.

"Saudi Arabia is clearly preparing for a post-fossil fuel dependent economy in terms of domestic energy consumption, and this huge bet on renewables would free up a lot of domestic output of oil for exports, while probably saving domestic gas resources as well", said Peter Kiernan, lead energy analyst at the Economist Intelligence Unit in Singapore. The rest will come from loans that will be paid off through revenue generated by selling electricity from the vast solar project, Son said. The $100bn fund is dedicated to technological investments and has poured money into industry disruptors like Uber, chipmaker Nvidia and Indian e-commerce giant Flipkart.

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The kingdom's deal-making has quickened as it pursues Prince Mohammed's diversification goals.

Last year, Saudi Arabia pledged $45 billion to invest in technology companies around the world.

Indeed, previous year the corporation announced a joint tech fund, the Vision Fund, with the Saudi Arabian government.

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.

Attia said that 200 gigawatts of solar would basically be enough to provide 95 percent of the country's current electricity needs, but since solar is only available during the day, it couldn't actually provide that much unless it was paired with massive battery installations.

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