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Watch: Saudi Arabia plans to build world's largest solar power plant

Kingdom looks to life after oil

Video: Reuters

The world's largest exporter of oil may seem like an unlikely champion of clean energy.

But Saudi Arabia has ambitious new plans to build the world's largest solar power plant - all part of its vision to wean the economy off oil.

At this government lab, outside the capital Riyadh, researchers are testing the panels to make it all possible.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, recently inked an agreement with Japan's Softbank to build a solar power station capable of generating 200 gigawatts.

That's about half the world's total output of solar power right now.

The project will cost up to US$200 billion, and researchers here say they've been preparing for over thirty years.

This is the only lab in the Middle East that can certify the panels for international use.

They've been testing them to survive the harshest of conditions.

The head researcher says the plans will provide the kingdom with over three times the amount of solar power they actually need, the idea is to export it.

"The good thing is Saudi Arabia's geographical location it's very close to Europe, Europe is the highest demand of energy and we can exporting that through the electric net, the international electric net so that's what gives Saudi Arabia its opportunity that's the raw materials all the resources and the geographical close, the solar radiation and the manpower so with this things it can be done," said Hussam Khonkar, who is the head researcher at Saudi Arabia's National Solar Energy Centre. 

Dr Khonkar says more details about this mega solar plant will be revealed in the next month.

Critics say the eye-popping figures aren't realistic, and Saudi Arabia has little track record in solar power.

But the kingdom certainly has the sun and the land for this bold plan.

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