Chief Executive Masayoshi Son is announcing a $200-billion solar power project in Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia and Japanese financial giant SoftBank have pledged to spend about $200 billion through 2030 to build 200 gigawatts ofsolarPV, a move that could upend the global solar landscape - if it comes to fruition.
Speaking at a press conference in NY today, Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Softbank chief executive Masayoshi Son confirmed they had signed a memorandum of understanding to proceed with the project, which will make full use of the Middle Eastern sunshine.
Saudi Arabia has projected that the SoftBank-funded projects will turn the kingdom into a solar manufacturing center, create 100,000 jobs, increase gross domestic product by $12 billion, and save $40 billion by cutting back on oil-fired electricity generation. The first phase of construction will begin later this year; seven percent of maximum capacity will be reached by 2019.
"Up until now, progress in building solar capacity in the kingdom has been very slow, but this deal might give it the kick start it needs".
Two hundred gigawatts is four times the solar capacity in the United States and four times China's the annual pace of solar power expansion. Prince Mohammed stated: "It's a huge step in human history", adding "It's bold, risky and we hope we succeed doing that". "The Kingdom has great sunshine, great size of available land, and great engineers".
The Saudi crown prince has been trying to wean the country off its addiction to oil and diversify the economy into new areas. "It is worth noting that many of these memorandums of understanding do not result in anything happening". The remaining $10 billion could be in Saudi Electricity Company. The fund has already invested in companies in the U.S., India and Europe.
The lofty promises from Saudi Arabia in the past, many of which stayed on the drawing board, have apparently not humbled the Crown Prince.
Mr Son, who is known as a savvy investor with a flair for the spotlight, has been promoting clean energy since the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster and recently completed a 50-megawatt wind power farm in Mongolia. Mohammed is now touring the United States in an effort to woo foreign investment in the kingdom as part of his effort to transform and diversify the economy there.
The announcement could boost confidence in the crown prince's efforts to attract billions in foreign investment during his USA tour after the unprecedented arrest of hundreds of top figures in Saudi Arabia, including prices, business moguls and military officers previous year.
Saudi Arabia also plans to build at least 16 nuclear reactors over the next 25 years at a cost of more than US$80 billion. And by burning oil and gas for electricity, it has one of the largest per capita rates of greenhouse gas emissions in the world, which could shrink if the country turns toward renewables.