SOUTH AFRICA – Automaker Ford South Africa’s (Ford SA’s) Silverton assembly plant, in Pretoria, which produces the Ranger pickup for the domestic and export markets, has officially started sourcing 35% of its electricity needs from solar photovoltaic (PV) energy generation.
Ford SA has a long-term power purchase agreement in place with SolarAfrica, which installed PV carports for 3,610 vehicles at the Silverton plant.
SolarAfrica’s large-scale solar array uses 30,226 solar panels to generate 13.5 MW of emissions-free electricity for the plant. This makes it one of the largest solar carports in the world and a ground-breaking renewable energy project for the domestic automotive industry.
“We are delighted to officially flip the switch and begin receiving 35% of our electricity from the solar carports with the completion of the first phase of our Project Blue Oval renewable energy programme,” says Ford SA operations VP Ockert Berry.
He adds that the project proudly puts the Silverton assembly plant on the map as part of Ford’s commitment to sustainability as the company migrates its energy supply from fossil fuels to environment-friendly, renewable resources.
“Through the long-term power purchase agreement with SolarAfrica, this project will also significantly reduce our energy costs, thereby improving the efficiency and cost competitiveness of the plant,” Berry notes.
“It is another big step forward in modernising our manufacturing operations as we build up to the highly anticipated launch of the must-have product that is the next-generation Ranger later this year.”
Combined with Ford SA’s investment in the Silverton plant and supplier tooling in the Tshwane Automotive Special Economic Zone for the next-gen Ranger, it has a world-class facility capable of producing vehicles of the highest quality for customers in more than 100 markets around the world.
Despite increasing the company’s production capacity to 200 000 vehicles a year, the solar project delivers on its promise of reducing Ford SA’s impact on the environment and contributing to a cleaner, more sustainable future.
Although some inevitable delays were experienced as a result of the Covid-19 lockdowns and the global shortage of certain components, the solar PV installation took just under 600 days to complete and supported 121 jobs among subcontractors involved in the construction and installation.
The solar PV array will eliminate the equivalent of 20 072 t/y of carbon dioxide emissions, which is a major step towards achieving Ford’s carbon-free emissions targets by 2035.
“With the solar project now complete and fully operational, we are evaluating the next steps for Project Blue Oval as we strive to ultimately have the Silverton plant completely energy self-sufficient and 100% carbon neutral,” Berry states.
SolarAfrica CEO David McDonald has commended Ford SA’s foresight in integrating renewable energy into its local operations and hopes more original-equipment manufacturers will come on board to adopt renewables.
“Aside from the environmental and cost benefits, the Ford SA solar project has had a big impact on job creation in the Tshwane area, which is fully supported by the City of Tshwane as it forms part of the city’s focus to grow the automotive industry as a key driver for employment.
“We are glad to be contributing to the sustainability of this sector and assist Ford in bringing its vision of job creation to life, hopefully leading to further industry growth and indirect employment,” notes McDonald.