Saudi Arabia has been aggressively pursuing a modernization program under Prince Mohammed Bin Salman. Recently, the Kingdom partnered with, the giant venture capital fund, to build the world’s largest solar power installation.
Crown prince, announced the memorandum of understanding with Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son. The centralized economic plan of the country is called “Vision2030” and seemingly everyone who meets with the Saudi delegation on its current trip through the U.S. touts the country’s vision.
The newly announced project is estimated to cost $200 billion through 2030 and eventually produce 200 gigawatts of power. This is big news for a kingdom long known for its oil production, but it is no secret that the country’s leaders want to diversify from oil as a revenue source and also as a source for its own power.
Diversifying energy sources at home can lead to the country selling more of its oil
In the 1970s, the Saudi oil industry was using advanced solar panels to run their equipment. At the time, Aramco, the national oil company, was still partially owned by American firms, including Exxon. Exxon had a subsidiary called Solar Power Corporation that was making advances in the technology. Aramco struggled to provide electricity to facilities that were isolated in the desert. Solar Power’s technology was used to power some of these isolated Aramco operations.
Thirty years later, the vision of a solar powered future was viable than ever. Ali al-Naimi, then the Saudi oil minister and formerly the Aramco CEO, shared the bold vision. Back in 2008, the price of oil was to the highest it would ever be. Aramco and Saudi Arabia were being flooded with cash from the oil business, and yet he said, “We in Saudi Arabia are developing solar energy.”
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