HRH Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman signs MOU with @SoftBank CEO Mr. Masayoshi Son to develop the Solar Energy Plan 2030 which will be the biggest solar project in the world. #CrownPrinceinNYC pic.twitter.com/vj233P7LNM— Saudi Embassy (@SaudiEmbassyUSA) March 28, 2018
The Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia is dragging this oil-dependent company right out of its comfort zone and into the spotlight – this time powered by solar energy.
Once again, Saudi Arabia made headlines when the Crown Prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Salman announced in a press conference in New York City that, together with Japanese telecom bigwig and tech investor, SoftBank, they will build the world's biggest solar power generation project, reported CNBC.
Just to give you an idea of the sheer size of this project – it's going to encompass 200 gigawatts, compared to the 70 gigawatts of solar capacity currently in operation or under construction and development in the US. We're talking majorly mega, here.
Since it's a huge undertaking, the solar project will only be fully completed in 2030 and is estimated to cost $200 billion. However, the first two solar parks will generate 7.2 gigawatts and create electricity in 2019.
Eventually, the solar power will be distributed throughout the Kingdom, with the revenues from the first two solar parks contributing to the funding of future solar projects. This compared to the UAE's plans to produce 1.17 megawatts.
But is solar power of that size even achievable?
CEO of SoftBank, Masayoshi Son seems to think so. He reportedly said that while Saudi has great sunshine, lots of available land, good engineers and laborers – all favorable factors in the project's undertaking – it is the vision of the Crown Prince that will make this possible (if it's doable). With due diligence on the project expected to be complete at the end of May, the possibility of a solar project this size working will be clear.
Expanding into renewable energy is a large part of Saudi's Vision 2030, which sees the country breaking away from oil and diversifying its economy through private investments and industries.
While their plans seem a little too ambitious, with Saudi mostly bankrolling the project, they've got the time – and money, to give it a shot.