The Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa (FMCSA) has kicked off a 13.5 MW, R135-million solar-energy project at its Silverton assembly plant, in Pretoria.
The project forms part of a larger programme to develop an integrated renewable energy solution for the facility, with the aim to be entirely green and energy self-sufficient by 2024.
Project Blue Oval is a partnership with SolarAfrica to provide a solar installation that will deliver around 30% of the Silverton plant’s yearly power requirements.
This involves installing specially developed and locally manufactured solar photovoltaic (PV) carports throughout the plant’s grounds, using more than 31 000 solar panels.
This will be one of the largest solar carport developments in the world, covering 4 200 parking bays.
“Ford Motor Company has launched clear objectives to address climate change, which compel us to change our behaviour in profound and lasting ways,” says Ford international markets group operations director Andrea Cavallaro.
“Ford is the only full-line automaker in the US committed to doing its part to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in line with the Paris Climate Agreement, and we are working towards stronger vehicle greenhouse standards to reduce our impact on the environment.”
This strategy includes the development of the Mustang Mach-E and the upcoming all-electric F-150 pickup.
“I am proud to announce that Project Blue Oval in South Africa sets a benchmark for Ford Motor Company’s objective to use 100% locally sourced renewable energy for all our manufacturing plants globally by 2035,” says Cavallaro.
“It also takes us one step closer to achieving carbon neutrality globally by 2050 – both for our facilities around the world and within our supply base.”
No More Municipal Services
The solar project at the Silverton plant is the first step towards achieving so-called island mode within the next four years, explains FMCSA operations VP Ockert Berry.
This means the plant – which produces the Ford Ranger, Ranger Raptor and Everest vehicles for the domestic market, as well as more than 100 global markets – will no longer rely on the national power grid, or any other municipal service.
“Our goal by 2024 is to have the Silverton plant completely energy self-sufficient and 100% carbon neutral, using an integrated renewable and co-generation energy mix comprising solar PV, biomass, biogas and biosyngas for all our electricity, gas and heating requirements,” says Berry.
“We will also be introducing 100% water recycling, and all non-fermentable waste will be repurposed through a pyrolysis system to produce syngas.”
FMCSA estimates that the domestic manufacturing of the solar carports will create 100 local jobs.
During the next phases (which are currently being investigated), the introduction of biomass as a source of renewable energy and the outsourced farming of fermentable biomass plants in rural areas that would support this project, could create employment for a further 2 400 people.
South Africa is currently faced with a crippling energy crisis, coupled with the ongoing threat of load-shedding, ever-increasing electricity tariffs and the erratic quality of power supply, says SolarAfrica chief technical officer David Sonnenberg.
“For a global manufacturing operation such as Ford’s Silverton assembly plant, these challenges make running a facility of this scale efficiently exceptionally difficult – both in terms of the availability of reliable energy and escalating costs.
“An added challenge is that most of South Africa’s electricity is generated through fossil fuels, specifically from coal-fired power stations. The high level of greenhouse gases generated exacerbates the environmental damage and resulting climate change.
“Water is also a very precious and scarce resource in South Africa. It is too valuable to be used once only, so we have to fundamentally change the way we use and consume water, particularly for the manufacturing sector.”
SolarAfrica has developed a bespoke cantilever solar carport for the Ford project.
The solar PV carport has been specifically designed to offer hail protection to the finished goods vehicle inventory.