Softbank, Saudi Arabia to work on solar power

Masayoshi Son chairman and chief executiveof Soft Bank Group shakes hands with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in New York after signing an agreement for the huge solar project. Jeenah Moon  Bloomberg

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

If the farm is built, it would nearly triple Saudi Arabia's electricity generation capacity two-thirds of which is now accounted for by natural gas and the rest by oil.

The Softbank Vision Fund will begin a major investment partnership with Saudi Arabia that could see 200GW of solar generation capacity installed.

On Tuesday, at a press conference in New York, Chief Executive of SoftBank Masayoshi Son made the announcement that SoftBank, Saudi Arabia to create World's Biggest Solar Power Project. Softbank's Vision Fund will provide US$1 billion of the total US$5 billion required. The rest will come from loans that will be paid off through revenue generated by selling electricity from the vast solar project, Son said.

"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 Kingdom has great sunshine, great size of available land, great laborers, and great engineers", "But most importantly it has the greatest vision", Son added. The venture also plans to build centers for research and development and education and training, he said.

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The project have the capacity to produce 200 gigawatts (GW) by 2030.

The project cost will be around $200 billion.

The announcement happened during the NY leg of Prince Mohammed's trip across the United States.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman is on a three-week tour of the United States, his first visit since being designated the successor of his father, King Salman bin Abdulaziz. The 32-year-old king-in-waiting and a Saudi delegation are cementing ties with the Trump administration and lining up American investors as the kingdom embarks upon an ambitious plan to diversify its economy. The money is to come from a 93-billion-dollar fund the firm set up a year ago with financial backers including Saudi Arabia. The SoftBank Vision Fund has already invested in companies in the U.S., Europe, and India. "Additionally, it will increase the GDP by 12 billion dollars and save up to 40 billion dollars annually", said the statement from the Saudi embassy in Washington. The fund is now closed.

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