There’s a lot of oil in Saudi Arabia, but there’s also a lot of sunshine, and as the former loses viability the country is looking to replace pipelines with solar panels.
During his ongoing tour of the US, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced plans to generate 200 gigawatts of solar energy by 2030—the largest solar project ever conceived, through a partnership with Japanese telecom investor SoftBank, according to CNBC.
The partnership is expected to lead to $200 billion in solar investments and create 100,000 jobs for the country, Al Jazeera reports.
"This kind of a project would never have been feasible without the big vision we shared with the crown prince," SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son told reporters at a press conference.
“The kingdom has great sunshine, great size of available land, great engineers, great laborers," he added. "But most importantly it has the greatest vision."
The announcement is part of Salman’s “Vision 2030” plan, which seeks to transform the country’s economy by transitioning away from fossil fuels, expanding sectors such as tourism and technology, and providing more opportunities for women.
Massive new facilities for the manufacturing process will be built to handle all aspects of production and installation, according to CNBC, including battery storage production, which has historically been an obstacle for solar energy.
Current battery storage technology is either inefficient or too expensive. As a result, a lot of the solar energy that’s generated around the world is lost after it’s captured because there’s nowhere to effectively store it.
While the project in Saudi Arabia isn’t finalized and both parties are still hammering out details, the first two solar farms are expected go online in 2019, generating 7.2 gigawatts of electricity at a cost of $5 billion, CNBC reports.
More details on the partnership are expected to arrive by the end of May.
For decades, Saudi Arabia has gotten the vast majority of its electricity through fossil fuels.
As climate change intensifies around the world, oil prices stagnate, and the cost of renewable energy plummets, the country is trying to change how its gets energy.
Over the past few years, Saudi Arabia has begun developing solar farms and already has $7 billion slated for investment this year, according to The New York Times.
By 2023, it’s hoping to receive 10% of its energy from renewables.
Globally, the world had around 390 gigawatts of solar energy capacity in 2017, and the biggest domestic producers are China, Japan, Germany, and the US.
A global initiative led by India is aiming to generate an additional 1,000 gigawatts of solar energy in the years ahead.
But with its expected investments, Saudi Arabia could also become a renewable energy leader, changing its reputation as the chief exporter of fossil fuels.
Global Citizen campaigns on the UN’s Global Goals, which call for countries to invest in renewable energy. You can take action on this issue here.