The world’s biggest-ever solar project – a $200 billion venture in Saudi Arabia – comes with a “batteries included” sticker that signals a major shift for the industry.
SoftBank Group partnered with the oil-rich Saudis this week to plan massive networks of photovoltaic panels across the sun-drenched desert kingdom.
The project is 100 times larger than any other proposed in the world and features plans to store electricity for use when the sun isn’t shining with the biggest utility-scale battery ever made.
The daytime-only nature of solar power has limited its growth globally partly because the cost of batteries was so high. Utilities that get electricity from big solar farms still rely on natural gas-fired backup generators to keep the lights on around the clock.
But surging battery supplies to feed electric-car demand have sent prices plunging, and solar developers from California to China are adding storage to projects like never before.
The Saudi-SoftBank project calls for an astonishing 200 gigawatts of generating capacity that would be built over the next decade or so, with the first electricity being produced by the middle of next year. Based on BNEF data, the project would dwarf the total solar panels that the entire photovoltaic industry supplied worldwide last year.A key feature of the project will be the construction of “the largest utility-scale battery” in two to three years that will supply “evening hour” power to consumers, Masayoshi Son, SoftBank’s founder, told reporters in New York this week.