SoftBank builds world's largest solar power plant

29 March, 2018, 02:35 | Author: Joshua Bennett
  • Source SMA Solar Technology

At a press conference in New York, Japan's Softbank, a multinational conglomerate holding company headquartered in Tokyo, signed a MoU with Saudi Arabia to build a $200 billion solar park, the largest in the world.

The SoftBank's 200 gigawatts, which will be built in the Saudi desert, will be one hundred times larger than the next largest solar park project, and is expected to produce more than the total energy delivered by the global solar industry previous year. SoftBank founder Masayoshi Son revealed the project Tuesday in NY at a ceremony with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman.

The final investment total for the 200 GW of generation, including the solar panels, battery storage and a manufacturing facility for panels in Saudi Arabia, will eventually total around $200 billion, Son said. The solar park has to reach its maximum capacity by 2030 and may cost almost 1 billion United States dollars per gigawatt. GTM Research's Global Solar Data Hub shows less than 800 megawatts of operational and pipeline projects developed by SB Energy to date.

As per the agreement, two solar plants with a capacity of 3 gigawatts and 4.2 gigawatts will be launched by 2019.

"The kingdom has great sunshine, great size of available land and great engineers, great labor, but most importantly, the best and greatest vision", Mr Son told reporters at a briefing.

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman described the oil-rich nation's "bold, risky" move into renewable power as a "huge step in human history".


The initial investment is $5 billion, of which $1 billion will come from the SoftBank (SFTBF) fund.

Yet another uncertainty is what Saudi Arabia wants to do with 200 GW of power when its total electricity capacity only amounted to 77 GW in 2016, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. "It is worth noting that many of these memorandums of understanding do not result in anything happening". It would provide enough electricity to simultaneously power about 20 billion LED light bulbs. Saudi Arabia seeks to diversify the economy and reduce its dependence on oil. SoftBank is said to have aimed to deploy as much as US$15 billion in a new city called Neom, which the crown prince plans to build on the Red Sea coast.

The kingdom's deal-making has quickened as it pursues Prince Mohammed's diversification goals.

The Public Investment Fund (PIF) invested about $54 billion a year ago according to data from the Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute.

The solar announcement also begs the question of what Saudi Arabia plans on doing with its plans to spend $80 billion to build around 16 nuclear reactors over the next 25 years? It also didn't mention the challenges involved in scaling up logistics and manufacturing capacity in a country that had less than 50 megawatts of solar PV installed as of previous year, less than Louisiana or Kyrgyzstan.

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