Riyadh, Softbank partner for US$200bn solar deal

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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.

Speaking at the launch in New York, SoftBank founder Masayoshi Son said the project will help Saudi Arabia to get rid off its dependence on oil for electricity and create 100,000 job opportunities.

At 200 gigawatts, the Softbank project planned for the Saudi desert would be about 100 times larger than the next biggest proposed development and a third more than what the global photovoltaic industry supplied worldwide past year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg New Energy Finance. The world's top oil exporter is planning to significantly invest in renewable energy as demand for power leapfrogs. The solar panels will be manufactured and developed in the Kingdom with a capacity of 150 gigawatts and 200 gigawatts by 2030.

Saudi Arabia previous year invited bids for a "utility-scale" 300 megawatt solar project, in a first for the world's top oil exporter.

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

From previous year, Softbank is planning to work on several projects with Saudi Arabia which includes developing a new business "Neom" and industrial city in the country. Softbank's Vision Fund will provide US$1 billion of the total US$5 billion required. He has also pushed a plan dubbed "Asia Super Grid", a plan to connect Asian nations by grids and undersea cables to distribute clean energy.

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