MAN Truck & Bus South Africa (MTBSA) on Tuesday unveiled a grid-connected solar photovoltaic (PV) rooftop system at its assembly facility in Durban, making it the first carbon-neutral MAN plant in the world.
The 580 kW, 2 320-panel, 6 300 m2 system is capable of generating around 810 000 kWh of power a year, providing a surplus of energy that can be supplied to the eThekwini metropolitan grid.
The system was installed by Solaray Systems, also based in Durban.
Installation work started in August, last year, and was completed in less than six months.
MTBSA plant head of production Heiko Kayser said in Durban that the costs of the system included R5-million to prepare the roof for the panels, and R10-million to install the energy system.
He said the PV system would not enable MTBSA to continue operations during periods of load-shedding, when power utility Eskom limited power supply to businesses, plants and households.
However, MAN was already planning for the next phase of its energy plan, which would see the installation of a generator. This plan should eventually lead to the company’s independence from the power grid.
Solaray Systems MD Alan Swart said the PV system is capable of morphing into a semi-grid-tied system, or a completely off-grid system, through the inclusion of a genset or battery system.
Kayser noted, however, that the main drive behind the installation of the PV system was not to become independent of the power grid, but rather to serve the environmental goals of MTBSA’s parent company in Germany.
The PV system is linked to a Web-based monitoring programme that reports daily power consumption, as well as electricity-cost and carbon dioxide (CO2) savings.
The system should see MTBSA save R1-million on its energy bill in 2015, while it should also achieve CO2 savings of 860 t.
The Durban project formed part of MAN’s global Climate Strategy to reduce carbon emissions at its production sites in Europe, Africa, Asia and South America by 25% by 2020.
Savings currently totalled 18%, using 2008 as the base year.
According to its Climate Strategy, MAN would reduce CO2 emissions by improving energy efficiency; using renewable energy sources; generating energy using combined heat and power plants; and through the use of integrated energy-management systems.
In addition to the PV system, the MAN assembly plant had also installed a wash bay with a water recycling system, which included an oil-water separator.
The system captures rainwater from the roof, which is stored in tanks alongside the wash bay. This water is used to only clean vehicles, as well as to test truck cabs for leaks as they roll off the assembly line.
The MTBSA plant opened its doors in 1962. It covers an area of 32 544 m2, of which 10 000 m2 are covered.
The plant currently employs 160 people, assembling trucks and buses for the local and African markets.