Saudi Arabia and SoftBank plan 200GW solar build

Posted March 29, 2018

By 2030 the collaboration could yield 200GW of generation capacity.

Softbank is to invest in the project through its US$100 billion Softbank Vision Fund, created in 2016 with money from Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund and others.

To start $5 billion will be used as the initial investment, of which the Japan-based SoftBank fund will give $1 billion.

SoftBank Group Chairman and CEO Masayoshi Son was also a panelist at an investment conference that Riyadh hosted past year.

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The deal was signed on the sidelines of a United States visit by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has undertaken a whirlwind of economic and social reforms.

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

Included in that would be training facilities, and a complete research and development center in order that new technology can continue to evolve.

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. He predicted that the project would add as much as $12 billion to the gross national product of Saudi Arabia.

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In its latest efforts to increase access to renewables and reduce dependence on oil, Saudi Arabia has drawn up plans to build the world's biggest solar farm, which, if realized, would create 100,000 jobs in the oil-rich kingdom and produce 200 gigawatts (GW) of energy, a third more than the global photovoltaic industry supplied worldwide past year.

According to Masayoshi, the project is likely to reduce power costs by $40 billion and create around 100,000 jobs. A factory unit is being planned in the kingdom to manufacture the panels locally. The money is to come from a 93-billion-dollar fund the firm set up past year with financial backers including Saudi Arabia.

The fund, which was at $93 billion, reached its target after raising $7 billion from USA corporates and managers of the Vision Fund in the last few months, according to a source familiar with the fund. With a $45 billion investment, it is the largest investor in SoftBank's Vision Fund. The fund is now closed.

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