200 gigawatts of solar power. $200 billion. 100,000 jobs. Those are the numbers attached to the SoftBank Solar Project, which is set to become the biggest solar farm in the world thanks to a deal signed by Saudi Arabia and Japanese conglomerate company SoftBank‘s Vision Fund. The move could help Saudi Arabia, the largest oil exporter in the world, progress from fossil fuels to renewable energy.
The Saudis and SoftBank, signing a memorandum of understanding, are moving forward on a massive solar development that could see hundreds of gigawatts installed by 2030. SoftBank founder Masayoshi Son and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman unveiled the plan earlier this week; the crown prince said, “It’s a huge step in human history. It’s bold, risky, and we hope we succeed doing that.”
The project is planned for the Saudi desert, Bloomberg said. According to data from Bloomberg New Energy Finance, it could be around 100 times bigger than the next largest proposed development, and could “more than double what the global photovoltaic industry supplied last year.” The $200 billion investment will go towards solar panels, battery storage, and a Saudi Arabia solar panel manufacturing facility, according to Reuters. The project’s initial phase will be 7.2 gigawatts and cost $5 billion.
The SoftBank Solar Project could mark a huge step away from oil and towards clean energy for Saudi Arabia; Bloomberg said the country only has small-scale solar projects operating at the moment and Reuters said they obtain a bulk of their electricity via oil-fired plants even though they’re one of the sunniest countries in the world.
Economist Intelligence Unit lead energy analyst Peter Kiernan told Reuters, “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.”