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SoftBank, Saudi Arabia to create World's Biggest Solar Power Project

29 March 2018

Saudi Arabia and Japanese telecom giant-turned-tech investor SoftBank expanded their partnership on Tuesday, announcing the world's biggest solar power generation project at a press conference in NY.

Softbank's Vision Fund would provide US$1 billion for the first phase, with the rest coming from project financing, Nicholson said.

If built, the farm would almost triple the country's electricity generation capacity, which stood at 77GW in 2016 and is comprised entirely of natural gas and oil. "The Kingdom has great sunshine, great size of available land, and great engineers, great neighbors, but most importantly, the best and greatest vision".

Indeed, past year the corporation announced a joint tech fund, the Vision Fund, with the Saudi Arabian government.

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The project was projected to cost $200 billion through 2030. 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 solar panels for the project will be imported at first, but will later include a panel manufacturing and assembly site, according to Son.

The project is so big that it's expected to take more than a decade to finish. The current target for its completion is 2030.

Included in that would be training facilities, and a complete research and development center in order that new technology can continue to evolve. If built, the development would nearly triple Saudi Arabia's electricity generation capacity, which stood at 77 gigawatts in 2016, according to BNEF data. While the kingdom has for years sought to get a foothold in clean energy, it's was only in 2017 that ministers moved forward with the first projects, collecting bids for a 300-megawatt plant in October.

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SoftBank founder Masayoshi Son revealed the project Tuesday in NY at a ceremony with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman.

The crown prince is pursuing structural reforms in Saudi Arabia to reduce the reliance of the country's economy on oil. Unconfirmed reports emerged last year that the Japanese investment firm is planning to pump in over $25 billion over the next three to four years.

Major solar installations, like nuclear plants, could also help free up oil burned for electricity at home for export overseas - which might hint at one additional motivation for the agreement.

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SoftBank, Saudi Arabia to create World's Biggest Solar Power Project