The Silverton Assembly Plant in Pretoria will no longer rely on the national power grid or any municipal services, thanks to the partnership of Solar Africa and Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa (FMCSA).
FMCSA recently launched Project Blue Oval project, a renewable energy programme at the plant, as part of the company’s vision to develop an integrated renewable energy solution that aims to have the plant entirely ‘green’ and energy self-sufficient by 2024.
The partnership aims to provide a 13.5mw solar installation for the facility, valued at R135m, which will deliver approximately 30% of the Silverton plant’s annual power requirements.
“Along with Ford, we share the vision of a zero-emission future, and we welcome Ford’s enthusiasm and passion in launching the solar energy project, and working towards the broader green initiatives in the future,” David Sonnenberg, Chief Technical Officer of SolarAfrica and Project Blue Oval.
This involves installing specially developed and locally manufactured solar photovoltaic (PV) carports throughout the facility, using more than 31,000 solar panels. Covering parking bays for around 4,200 vehicles, it will be one of the largest solar carports in the world.
According to Ockert Berry, VP of operations at FMCSA, the solar project is the first step towards achieving ‘Island Mode’ within the next four years. “This is a bold step that will transform our business, helping us make an important contribution to reduce our impact on the environment,” Berry states. “It will also make our Silverton Assembly Plant both more efficient and more cost-competitive,” said Berry.
“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,” said Berry.
On the other hand,Ford is also addressing the dependence on precious water resources, particularly in water-scarce countries such as South Africa, as well as reducing and eventually completely phasing out its contribution of waste to landfill.
“We have to fundamentally change the way we use and consume water, particularly for the manufacturing sector, hence we will also be introducing 100% water recycling, and all non-fermentable waste will be repurposed through a pyrolysis system to produce syngas,” added Berry.
Sonnenberg noted that the solar project is the first step towards addressing South Africa’s energy and environmental challenges. “As we are all too well aware, South Africa is currently faced with a crippling energy crisis, coupled with the ongoing threat of load shedding, ever-increasing electricity tariffs, municipal shortage of capacity, demand charges on power, and the erratic quality of this power delivery with regard to spikes and dips,” he said.
Aside from the environmental and cost benefits, Project Blue Oval will also bring to life Ford’s vision of job creation, starting with the domestic manufacturing of the solar carports by SolarAfrica, which will create 100 jobs locally.