SoftBank, Saudi Arabia announce massive solar power project
TOKYO — SoftBank Group Corp. Chief Executive Masayoshi Son announced on Wednesday a $200-billion solar power project in Saudi Arabia, which promises to be the largest of its kind ever.
The project is in cooperation with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, a partner in the SoftBank Vision Fund, set up in 2016.
The fund has already invested in companies in the United States, India, and Europe.
The deal announced at a news conference in New York is the first major one in Saudi Arabia.
The ample sunshine and land, and Saudi Arabia’s pool of engineers and skilled workers make the foray into solar there lucrative, according to Son.
He also said the project will create 100,000 jobs; reduce Saudi Arabia’s dependence on oil for its electricity, which it can sell internationally instead; and generate 200 gigawatts of electricity by 2030.
He described the project as “the world’s biggest solar power generation.”
The solar panels will be imported at first, but the project will later include a panel manufacturing and assembly site, according to Son.
Construction on the project begins immediately, and electricity generation will start next year, Son also told reporters.
SoftBank, founded in 1981, has within its sprawling investment empire financial-technology, ride-booking services, and the Pepper human-shaped companion robot.
The first telecoms carrier to offer the iPhone in Japan, SoftBank has bought British semiconductor company ARM and Japanese professional baseball team, the Softbank Hawks.
Son has been a critic of nuclear energy after the 2011 tsunami set off multiple meltdowns in Fukushima, northeastern Japan – the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl. He sees solar energy as a key part of his company strategy. /kga
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