SEE | Ford's SA factory can harness energy from the sun to power more than 12 000 homes

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  • Ford has reduced its reliance on the national power grid by installing a new solar array at its factory.
  • The massive structure can generate enough electricity to power more than 12 000 homes for a year.
  • Ford aims to become a carbon-neutral car maker by 2035 and will take further steps to produce green energy.
  • For motoring news, go to Wheels24

It took 599 days, 35 000 hours and supported 121 jobs among sub-contractors involved in the construction and installation of the project. 

Finally, Ford's ready to energise its Silverton, Pretoria, factory using the sun's power. The car company is reducing its mega bakkie plant's reliance on the national power grid to pump out Rangers and Amaroks for local and export destinations, regardless of whether the government can keep South Africa's lights on.

Ford has reduced its Silverton factory's reliance
Ford has reduced its Silverton factory's reliance on the national energy grid by going solar.

An essential move to ensure sustainability

Ford's factory in Pretoria currently produces the Ranger for domestic sales and exports the product to more than 100 global markets. It will also build the next-generation Volkswagen Amarok at the Pretoria factory in a collaborative effort with the German carmaker to reduce cost and complications. 

It has flipped the switch and is now sourcing 35% of its electricity completely emissions-free, directly from the sun. This project results from a long-term power purchase agreement with SolarAfrica, with the installation of solar photovoltaic (PV) carports for 3 610 vehicles at the Silverton plant.

Ford has reduced its Silverton factory's reliance
Ford has reduced its Silverton factory's reliance on the national energy grid by going solar.

One of the most significant structures in the world

SolarAfrica's innovative, large-scale solar array uses 30 226 solar panels to generate 13.5MW of emissions-free electricity for the Silverton plant. This makes it one of the most extensive solar carports globally and supports Ford Motor Company's ambitious global targets of using 100% carbon-free electricity across its manufacturing operations by 2035 and achieving carbon neutrality by 2050.

"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 Ockert Berry, VP Operations, Ford South Africa. 

"This project proudly puts the Silverton Assembly Plant on the map as part of Ford's commitment to sustainability as we migrate our energy supply from fossil fuels to environmentally-friendly, renewable resources.

Ford has reduced its Silverton factory's reliance
Ford has reduced its Silverton factory's reliance on the national energy grid by going solar.

READ: OPINION | Ford's Ranger Raptor: the harder you drive it, the more rewarding it feels

"Through the long-term power purchase agreement with SolarAfrica, this project will also significantly reduce our energy costs, thus improving the efficiency and cost competitiveness of the plant," Berry says. 

"It is another significant 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 our R15.8-billion investment in the Silverton Assembly Plant and supplier tooling in the Tshwane Automotive Special Economic Zone for the next-gen Ranger, we have a truly world-class facility capable of producing vehicles of the highest quality for our customers around the world," Berry says.

"Despite increasing our production capacity to 200 000 vehicles per year, the solar project delivers on our promise of reducing our impact on the environment and contributing to a cleaner, more sustainable future."

Ford has reduced its Silverton factory's reliance
Ford has reduced its Silverton factory's reliance on the national energy grid by going solar.

Enough electricity to supply more than 12 000 houses

Ford experienced inevitable delays due to the Covid-19 lockdowns and the global shortage of specific components. Approximately 59 tons of steel and 315 tons of aluminium were used for the locally manufactured solar carports.

More than 5 000 metres of medium and low-voltage cabling was used to connect the solar PV panels to 120 three-phase 100kW inverters and eight transformers before being fed into the Silverton plant. The system can produce 13.5MW of power – which is equivalent to powering almost 224 000 light bulbs, or 12 171 average households, for an entire year.

From an environmental perspective, the solar PV array will eliminate the equivalent of 20 072 tons of carbon dioxide generated per annum, which is a significant step toward achieving Ford's carbon-free emissions targets.

"With the solar project now complete and fully operational, we are evaluating the next steps for Project Blue Oval. We strive to ultimately have the Silverton plant completely energy self-sufficient and 100% carbon neutral," Berry concludes.

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