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That’s not a solar farm. This is a solar farm!

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Source: PA Wire

The Saudi Arabian sovereign wealth fund and the Japanese technology conglomerate SoftBank are planning the world’s largest solar projects.

The world’s largest private equity fund – Softbank’s $100 billion Vision Fund, will provide the initial equity for the first phase of the scheme. The Vision Fund is part-funded in turn by the Saudi sovereign wealth fund (and other investors such as Apple and Foxconn).

Incidentally the Vision Fund has caused a huge ruction in the previously clubby Venture Capital industry, as it dwarfs its competitors, and is cheerfully capable of funding multiple companies in the same industry instead of picking winners (it has funded 4 separate ride-sharing companies, for instance: Uber, Didi, Ola, and Grab).

Today, the total solar deployment around the world has a capacity of around 400 gigawatts (which is slightly more than that generated by nuclear).

The largest single installation is the Tengger Desert Solar Park in China, at just over 1.5 gigawatts.

For comparison, the largest solar installation in Australia is the 220MW (0.22 gigawatts) Bungala solar farm near Port Augusta.

SoftBank and the Saudis say their solar project will have a capacity of around 7.2 gigawatts in 2019 (in two projects of 3GW and 4.2GW respectively), and 200 gigawatts by 2030.

The project would result in panels taking up vast tracts of the desert equivalent to a million football pitches. So yes, this is a huge deal.

Saudi Arabia’s electricity sector, perhaps unsurprisingly, is currently heavily oil-dependent. As domestic petroleum is heavily subsidized, it accounts for around 60% of the kingdom’s electricity generation.

But domestic oil consumption is rising, meaning a potential reduction in the amount of oil Saudi Arabia has left to sell abroad. So there’s a large economic transformation angle to the solar push.

Also surprisingly, perhaps, Saudi Arabia is a signatory to the Paris Agreement on climate change, but has never been clear as to how it intends to achieve its carbon emissions reduction target.

The Softbank deal makes things somewhat clearer now. In addition, Saudi Arabia is also particularly sensitive to climate change.

According to the protagonists (Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and SoftBank chief Masayoshi Son), the first phase will cost $5 billion (or US69.4 cents per kW). The Vision Fund will contribute US$1 billion in equity, while the rest of the financing will come from project-financed debt.

By the time the project is completed, it will have cost an estimated US$200 billion.

That includes the cost of labour, panels—which will be imported initially but with plans for local production capacity—and an unprecedented network of batteries that will be able to store this energy for measured distribution over the Saudi grid.

Under the terms of the arrangement, the plant would supply enough electricity not only for Saudi Arabia but much of the Middle East via exports. The projected savings are up to US$40bn annually and 100,000 direct and indirect jobs are expected to be created.

Son said “The project will fund its own expansion,” via the profits generated in each step of the build-out helping fund the subsequent phase.  

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  • Paul Surguy

    That is big,we need a couple of these in Australia

    • Chris Schneider

      For what? we use 20GW total! One would be 10 times our needs.

      • Ren Stimpy

        For what? Pump water at pumped-hydro dams. Recharge grid scale batteries. Charge electric cars. Heat hotwater systems when cheap energy is plentiful in the middle of the day. Run all businesses and government departments which operate mainly between the hours of 9 and 3. Produce hydrogen for export.
        What else?

        • Chris Schneider

          You think we need more than ten times our currently peak demand for charging cars? Hot water is already a part of the grid! About the only thing that makes sense is Hydrogen but that is a massive investment to make export hydrogen!

          • Ren Stimpy

            Charging cars, plus everything else. Assuming a future with no coal or gas generators, that all our firming comes from storage, and that all transport is electrified. Divide the capacity by four because generation would only occur during six-to-eight of the daylight hours. Knock another 10% off for rainy days.

          • stucrmnx120fshwf

            It doesn’t have to be just hydrogen, say for aviation, we can cable it overseas, like Bass Link to Tasmania, the various national grids, we could use the energy for metal smelting and export billions of ingots. We could do high rise agriculture, export millions of tons of foodstuffs, from massive groundscraper buildings, on cheap desert land.

      • Ian

        Export spare solar via cable to SE Asia.
        Export energy by giant battery filled ships, replacing oil tankers.

        • itdoesntaddup

          Have you done any back of the envelope sums on exporting energy in battery filled ships? One 250,000 tonne VLCC holds about 3TWh of energy as crude oil (12MWh/tonne). At 8 Hornsdale Power Reserves to the GWh, that is 24,000 HPRs just to hold ONE VLCC’s worth. Even if you can get 1 HPR for $50m, that is $1,200bn in batteries.

          Of course, you have to be able to fit them onto the ship in the first place: the largest container ships manage about 20,000TEU. The battery containers for the HPR number 108. So you’d only be able to get about 200 HPRs per ship. So you’d need 120 ships just to carry the energy held in 1 VLCC. Of course, they would use much the same energy for the voyage – each. A 30 day round trip voyage would consume around 750 tonnes of bunkers, so 120 ships would use 90,000 tonnes – or 36% of the energy being delivered. Not very efficient.

          I’ll leave the cable to SE Asia as an exercise.

          • Ian

            Thats interesting, agreed the time is not yet ripe, though likely will, and actually needs to – considering the necessity of eliminating FFs.

            Round trip efficiency of battery storage vs efficiency of combustion probably improve the battery case compared to FFs by double.

          • mick

            might be wrong haven’t china already done this to cart coal

          • itdoesntaddup

            You need rather less power simply to run a ship, but even that has its limitations. Here’s the reality of China’s electric vessel:

            https://www.sciencealert.com/world-first-completely-electric-cargo-ship-china

            Just 2,000 tonnes with 2.4MWh of battery and a range of 50 miles on the inland Pearl River at a speed of 7 knots – more range anxiety than a Nissan Leaf. Since China’s grid is predominantly coal fired, it runs inefficiently on coal – which is what the vessel is transporting, no doubt to the power stations that fuel it.

            A 20,000TEU vessel would need something like 40-50 HPRs to be able to ply international routes, and a dedicated dockside power supply of 300MW to recharge in port. At say $2.5bn for the batteries, a mere snip.

          • Calamity_Jean

            Plus, why bother? One of the best things about solar power is that the sun shines almost everywhere almost every day. Rather than lug batteries back and forth around the world, take solar panels and batteries somewhere once and install them for local generation.

      • WR

        I wouldn’t be surprised if Australia ends up installing 50+ GW of solar and around 20 GW of wind. That would require about 250 GWh of storage to absorb excess generation for later use.

        Those sound like large numbers but its entirely feasible if we work at it systematically over the next 20 years.

        • Chris Schneider

          I would say 30-40GW of Solar and 15GW of Wind Hydro and Hydrogen plants and we’re done. Queensland in the next few years will be pushing 6GWs!
          https://maps.dnrm.qld.gov.au/electricity-generation-map/

        • stucrmnx120fshwf

          With cheaper energy, things can move very fast, the last roaring twenties, were 5 times faster than the 50’s or 60’s, the number of cars increased tenfold, electricity exploded, we’re about due now. For a peak decade of industrial revolution, after 45 years of the Great Stagnation (not in the developing world, since the end of the cold war.)

  • Ren Stimpy

    Why aren’t we seeing any of the Bungala solar farm generation in the Large Solar colour on the SA bar of the Live widget?

    • Paul Surguy

      It is not on line yet,I think a couple more months

      • Ren Stimpy

        Virtue is a patience I guess.

        • Paul Surguy

          August 2018 check out Wikipedia on solar farms and wind farms there are a few coming on line shortly

          • Ren Stimpy

            Consider it bookmarked. Just saying that if it’s on the widget a thousand times more locals will be seeing it on a daily basis than if it’s just on a wiki.

          • rob

            it is so nice to see ren stimpy blocked on my feed

    • mick

      whyalla also

      • Ren Stimpy

        wasn’t that “wiped out”?

        • Ren Stimpy

          where’s Joe? I can do sarcasm.

        • mick

          different project back when, the one im on about is 6MW apparently came online late january i keep pestering them to put it up but nada

          • WR

            i believe the large-scale PV registered on the widget is taken from AEMO site. The AEMO only registers generators that have more than 20 MW of capacity.

          • mick

            cheers mate il stop pestering them

  • George Darroch

    I’ll believe it when they do it.

  • Barry Alternative Fact Covfefe

    I think 200GW is more hype then substance. I want to be proven wrong.

  • itdoesntaddup

    I think you should make clear your definition of subsidy, Since Saudi Arabia has about the lowest cost of oil production of anywhere in the world, the low domestic prices are not actually subsidised at all: they are however at a considerable discount to world market prices.

  • Joe

    They make ’em bigger and better in…Saudi Arabia.

  • John Hartshorn

    “Today, the total solar deployment around the world has a capacity of
    around 400 gigawatts (which is slightly more than that generated by
    nuclear).”

    • Steve

      It does need backup. When a nuclear power station is off line it stays off line for a long time. Since they are large that represents a big backup.

    • Peter F

      Actually according to the Nuclear Energy Institute the world nuclear fleet runs at about 68% CF. In Saudi Arabia tracking solar will reach 31-32% so this plant will produce a bit over 22% of all the worlds nuclear output

    • stucrmnx120fshwf

      Backup, like liquid salt heat reservoirs, liquid hydrogen, pumped seawater hydro electric, the trillion dollars worth of lithium in Afghanistan, changing the state of the energy to stored may not be 100% efficient. But it doesn’t have to be, if the price of solar continues its normal trends, or accelerates it’s price reduction, due to economies of scale, so that solar comes in at 1/3rd of the price of CO2 emissions power. What happens, when solar starts coming in, at 10th of the price of CO2 emissions power.