Ford’s giant Pretoria plant moves partially off the grid

Ford’s Silverton motor vehicle assembly plant in Pretoria has greatly reduced its reliance on Eskom after switching on a giant solar installation that ensures it’s now sourcing 35% of its electricity needs from the sun.

The huge Pretoria plant produces the Ford Ranger bakkie for both domestic sales and exports to more than 100 global markets.

The solar project, the first phase of Ford’s “Project Blue Oval” renewable energy programme, is the result of a long-term power-purchase agreement with SolarAfrica, which installed solar PV carports for more than 3 600 vehicles at the Silverton plant.

Read: A look at the massive Pretoria plant that will build the new Ford Ranger

SolarAfrica’s large-scale solar array uses a total of 30 226 solar panels to generate 13.5MW of emissions-free electricity for the Silverton plant, Ford said on Tuesday.

“This makes it one of the largest solar carports in the world, and a truly ground-breaking renewable energy project for the domestic automotive industry,” the company said, adding that it supports the US group’s target to use 100% carbon-free electricity across its manufacturing operations by 2035, and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

Ockert Berry, vice president of operations at Ford South Africa, said in a statement that the project will “significantly reduce” the Silverton’s plant’s energy costs and this will improve the efficiency and cost competitiveness of the plant.

The installation took 599 days to complete. About 59t of steel and 315t of aluminium were used for the locally manufactured solar carports.

More than 5 000m 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 about 12 000 average households. It will eliminate the equivalent of 20 072t of carbon dioxide generated per year.

“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,” said Berry.  – © 2022 NewsCentral Media