Saudi Arabia Just Made Plans To Build Mega Metropolis Powered Entirely By Renewables

NEOM is one of the most ambitious renewable energy projects ever announced. Saudi Arabia is planning to build a new mega-city that's over 10,000 square miles and it will be completely powered by renewable sources.


May 22 2019, Updated 10:35 a.m. ET

Saudi Arabia, one of the world’s biggest oil exporters, is planning to boost their economy with a fully renewable city. Located between Jordan and Egypt, this new metropolis will be over 33 times the size of New York City. The goal is to limit the focus on revenue from oil exports and to bring in companies that will help grow the new city.

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Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced the new project this week, called NEOM, at the Future Investment Initiative Conference in Riyadh. Estimated costs to construct the metropolis are at $500 billion. NEOM is expected to measure at 10,230 square miles, which is a significant amount of land to make fully renewable.

The country is hoping to fund $300 billion of the project while selling five percent Saudi Aramco, which is a petroleum and natural gas giant in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. Funding would come from sources like the Public Investment Fund and investors from Japan’s SoftBank. Ultimately, there will be nine sectors of the city that will boost Saudi Arabia’s overall economy, including energy and water, mobility, and biotech.

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Visions include the sun powering large landscapes of solar panels, and the electrical grid will also be powered by wind turbines. All of this is, along with “whole new kinds of energy the world has yet to hear of,” is expected to power the gigantic metropolis. Since there’s a lot of real estate to traverse, they’re planning to add green and automated transport options.

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Food is also getting the sustainable treatment, and the project promises fresh food despite the desert location. They’ll be farming in solar-powered greenhouses and vertical farms in densely-populated locations. This will bring in fresh crops to the community, adding to the great quality of life they’re hoping to achieve through its other sectors.

Klaus Kleinfeld, former CEO of Siemens AG and Alcoa Inc., has been selected to lead project development. Alcoa spun off a new company back in November 2016 for its automotive and aerospace parts manufacturing, calling it Arconic. Kleinfeld was the CEO for the new company until the following April when he resigned.

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"This place is not for conventional people or conventional companies, this will be a place for the dreamers for the world," Mohammed bin Salman said at the conference. "The strong political will and the desire of a nation. All the success factors are there to create something big in Saudi Arabia."

With Saudi Arabia losing out on money in fossil fuel exports, it’s a good move to transition in order to keep the economy from going under. Is something like their visions of a massive renewable metropolis feasible? Las Vegas is the biggest city in the United States to run with 100 percent renewable power, and that has a land area of 135.8 square miles.

These concepts should make us all intrigued by the potential, but we'll see how it all pans out. They do expect to see $70 billion in revenue based on their nine sectors. One current goal is to complete one section of NEOM by 2025. 

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