Ford South Africa’s assembly plant is now generating 35% of its electricity needs onsite from a newly commissioned 13.5 MW solar carport system. Through a long term Power Purchase Agreement with SolarAfrica, Ford will offset a significant amount of CO2 from the electricity it consumes from South Africa’s predominantly coal-powered grid. According to an announcement by Ford South Africa, 30,226 solar panels make up the large arrays covering carports for 3,610 vehicles at the Silverton assembly plant in Pretoria. The 13.5MW plant is one of the largest solar PV carports in the world and builds onto the Ford Motor Company’s global targets to use 100% carbon-free electricity across its manufacturing operations by 2035, and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.
“We are delighted to officially flip the switch and begin receiving 35 percent 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.”
“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 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 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 South Africa’s announcement continues:
There were 121 jobs amongst sub-contractors involved in the construction and installation. 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 is capable of producing 13.5MW of power – which is equivalent to powering almost 224,000 light bulbs, or 12,171 average households, for an entire year.
More significantly from an environmental perspective, the solar PV array will eliminate the equivalent of 20 072 tons of CO2 generated per annum, 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-percent carbon neutral,” Berry adds.
The Silverton plant assembles the popular Ford Ranger pickup truck for the domestic, regional, and international markets. Exports reach over 100 markets. As the transition to electromobility accelerates in key markets, we hope that South African motor vehicle assembly plants will soon be able to add electric vehicle models on their assembly lines for domestic and export markets.
You can watch a nice video of the solar carport’s construction here courtesy of Ford South Africa.
South Africa is currently facing an electricity crisis that has forced the utility company to implement a power rationing load-shedding schedule periodically over the last couple of years, and it struggles to meet demand. Eskom’s load-shedding program is structured in stages, where Eskom sheds a certain quantum of load from the grid to stabilize the grid. So, depending on the severity of the crisis, load-shedding is implemented in stages from Stage 1 to Stage 8, where Stage 1 sheds 1,000 MW of load from the grid and in a Stage 8 scenario, Eskom takes out 8,000 MW of load from the grid. Load-shedding is implemented over 2-hour or 4-hour blocks on a rotational basis depending on the severity of the crises. Stage 8, however, means most consumers will experience a blackout for about 12 hours.
Last year, South Africa raised the threshold for companies to produce their own electricity without a license from 1 MW to 100 MW. Generation projects will still need to obtain a grid connection permit to ensure that they meet all of the requirements for grid compliance. This 100 MW threshold should catalyze the adoption of solar by large corporates to complement their grid supply.
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