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Saudi Arabia To Build Massive Solar Power Installation

Around midnight on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, news camethat Saudi Arabia and Softbank, the giant venture capital fund, would partner to build the world’s largest solar power installation in the kingdom.

Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating site in Primm, Nev., on of the largest solar power projects in the world. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson, File)

Crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, who announced the memorandum of understanding with Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son, looks visionary once again. And vision for the future seems to be the theme for the Saudi economy today. After all, the country’s centralized economic plan 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.

But this particular vision—massive solar power generation in the sunny desert—is really nothing new . It is part of a long-term strategy that long predates the current Saudi leadership.

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. After all, if Saudi Arabia produces electricity through other, more efficient and cost effective means—nuclear, solar, natural gas—it can sell more of its own oil.

Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud (L) meets with Bloomberg founder and former NYC Mayor Michael A. Bloomberg (2nd R) at a cafe in New York, United States on March 29, 2018. (Photo by Bandar Algaloud / Saudi Kingdom Council / Handout/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Back in the 1970s, though, the Saudi oil industry was already 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

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