In some recent solar energy news there appears to be a new deal brewing between a Japanese Company and the Saudi Arabian government to build some huge solar electric generating fields there. Saudi Arabia and Japan’s Softbank have announced a joint venture they are working out that when completed will put Saudi Arabia among the world’s leaders in solar energy production and collection. It’s believed to be the first solar project of its kind on this dramatic of a scale in the somewhat conservative kingdom.
The deal between the Saudi Arabian government and Japan’s Softbank is a very ambitious solar project that calls for building several solar electric producing fields that once completed will generate upwards of 200-gigawatts of electricity. That is an unprecedented size solar project for a country the size and population of Saudi Arabia. The deal is such a big event that Softbank announced its signing with the Saudi Crown Prince himself, Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Why Is It A Big Deal?
The sheer size of this solar energy plan is what makes it stand out from others. If you don’t realize how big a solar electrical output 200-gigawatts is, let’s put it into perspective. China is the fastest growing solar energy producing country and the proposed 200-gigawatt Saudi Arabian production facility will amount to four times the annual increase in solar energy production in all of China.
The 200-gigawatt solar energy generation figure also will dwarf the entire solar energy output of the United States too. The 200-gigawatts of proposed solar energy generation in Saudi Arabia is almost four times the entire solar electric power that’s currently generated in America. As a matter of fact, the world as a whole only installed 303-gigawatts of additional solar cell capacity in all of 2016.
The deal is said to be worth an estimated 200 million dollars and it’s the first of its kind to include massive battery storage on this grand of a scale also. Once underway, the Saudi Arabian and Softbank joint solar venture will become the world’s largest solar electrical generation project ever.
So this is definitely an ambitious undertaking by Japan’s Softbank and the government of Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia’s Proposed Solar Deal is Somewhat Surprising
Why is it surprising that it’s Saudi Arabia that looks like it’s going to go forward with these new huge solar energy fields? It’s no secret that Saudi Arabia is the world’s biggest oil producing nation at an estimated production of almost 12 billion barrels a day. The thing is, the country has seen its profits steadily decline over the past few decades as the price of oil has plummeted. Part of the reason for the drop in oil prices is the world is now using so many renewable energy sources such as solar power.
This may be the classic case of “if you can’t beat them join them” for Saudi Arabia.
One thing that’s not surprising about this new solar energy deal is that it’s being carried forward in a country that has the ideal makeup for building solar energy fields. Saudi Arabia has vast amounts of unused and wide open spaces. When you combine that fact with the high amount of available sunshine found there year round, it’s a near perfect location to produce solar generated electricity.
Deal or No Deal?
Will these giant solar energy producing fields ever be built? It certainly looks like the deal will go forward but as of now it’s not officially signed. As of present the two sides, the Saudi Arabian government and Softbank of Japan, have only signed what is known as a memorandum of understanding. A memorandum of understanding is still not nearly as legally binding as an official contract and suggests there may still be some parts of the deal left to be worked out.
One thing is for sure is that for the Saudi Arabian government to even go that far suggests there is some serious interest on their part to get the deal done. Even though they do not make the money they used to off their oil sales they are still a country with very large accumulated wealth and can easily handle funding a massive solar project on this scale. With all the surplus energy these solar fields will generate Saudi Arabia may soon be the world’s largest solar energy produced electricity exporter too.
It’s certainly a situation that bears watching in the not too distant future.