Saudi Arabia will be home to the world’s largest solar power plant under a recent partnership signed between the Kingdom and Japan’s SoftBank Vision Fund. The $200 billion project is so large that it will also support the development of an entire solar equipment manufacturing industry in Saudi Arabia, and create as many as 100,000 jobs.
“The Kingdom has great sunshine, great size of available land, great engineers, great laborers. But most importantly it has the greatest vision” said Soft Bank Vision Fund CEO Masayoshi Son during the recent signing ceremony in New York with Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman. Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund is the largest investor in Softbank’s $100 billion Vision Fund.
The project – which will be constructed in two key parks – is expected to be in progress through 2030, in order to build out all 200 gigawatts needed. Construction is due to begin later this year, so electricity from the plant is generated in 2019. When completed the solar plants will nearly triple Saudi Arabia’s electricity generation capacity, which stood at 77 gigawatts in 2016.
Global markets reacted with great excitement in terms of the size, scale and the impact. The 200 gigawatts of capacity will be spread throughout Saudi Arabia, creating the world’s biggest solar generation project, and dwarfing other projects currently underway elsewhere in the world. By comparison, China’s EverRich Energy Wuwei PV Plant only has 1GW of capacity, and the Capital Dynamics Nevada PV Portfoilo Plant only has 1.3GW. It is also larger than any existing solar plants in the United States, which today only rate at 70 gigawatts of solar capacity.
Renewable energy is a key part of the Saudi Vision 2030 plan. The size of this project – and the sizeable investment into renewable energy – is evidence of Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman’s plan to expand and diversify Saudi Arabia’s predominantly oil based economy, while creating new jobs at the same time. On the occasion of the announcement the Crown Prince himself expressed “It’s a huge step in human history. It’s bold, risky and we hope we succeed doing that.”